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Sub Warfare Training Facility Threatens Whales, Sea Turtles

Would you build a $127 million training facility without first deciding whether to use it? That’s what the U.S. Navy claims it is doing in the waters off Jacksonville, Florida.

The Navy is pushing ahead with plans to build a massive submarine warfare training facility, consisting of 500 square miles of cables, nodes, buoys and other instruments, next to the only known nursery for the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale and on top of habitat for sea turtles and other endangered species.

The Navy is building this facility to host hundreds of exercises every year, with ships and aircraft crisscrossing the right whale nursery at high speeds, sending out disruptive underwater sound waves and leaving all sorts of debris behind for wildlife to get tangled in. Not to worry, the Navy says, it might not actually use the facility after building it. Instead, the Navy expects you to believe that it might decide to build a similar facility elsewhere and hold exercises there.

Earthjustice and a long list of allies have taken the Navy to court for spending millions of dollars committing it to an environmentally harmful course of action it claims not to have approved. This case is a perfect example of why such use of resources violates the National Environmental Policy Act, not to mention the principles of good government. Of course, if you believe the military can make an objective decision about whether to use a facility it has already spent $127 million to build, I have a base in Nuristan province to sell you.