Navy Resumes Sonar Training Off SD Coast As Legal Battle Goes On

The Navy has resumed sonar training off the coast of Southern California despite the continuing legal battle over how the exercises affect whales and other marine mammals.

The training by the carrier strike group of the USS Abraham Lincoln is part of a broader exercise to prepare the group for deployment, the Navy said in a news release.

During the exercises, which began Wednesday and were scheduled
to last through February 1, sailors train in anti-submarine warfare, ocean security operations and other areas.

The anti-submarine warfare exercises use mid-frequency active sonar that environmentalists say hurts whales and other marine life.

Earlier this month, a federal judge temporarily lifted certain measures designed to lessen the impact of sonar on whales, a day after President Bush exempted the Navy from an environmental law in an effort to allow the service to continue anti-submarine warfare exercises.

In a memorandum the president said the exercised were "in the paramount interest of the United States" and its national security.

"We are conducting this operation within all the regulations," said Commander Dora Lockwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Third Fleet in San Diego.

The Natural Resources Defense Council had sued to force the Navy
to lessen the harm of its sonar exercises. In November, a federal
appeals court said the sonar problem needed to be fixed.

Phone and e-mail messages left with a spokesman for the NRDC were not immediately returned Sunday.

Critics contend sonar has harmful effects on whales and other marine mammals, possibly by damaging their hearing. The council's lawsuit alleges the Navy's sonar causes whales and other mammals to beach themselves.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-01-27-08 1950EST

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