JRM: Navy employs protective measures to protect environment

 Following letter is in response to the article titled "Collateral Damage."

 

Joint Region Marianas and the U.S. Navy are committed to environmental and cultural stewardship. We employ many protective measures to safeguard marine resources during underwater detonation training. Examples of the protective measures include the area being visually cleared by divers below and lookouts on the surface before, during and after the exercise. 

In addition, all training activity ceases if a person, marine mammals or other significant marine life is seen in the area. The Navy routinely conducts these types underwater detonation trainings with small amounts of explosives on a sandy area of the sea floor at the designated deep water underwater location in outer Apra Harbor and one mile north of Cabras Island. Another training location exists in Agat Bay, five miles southwest of Orote Point.

This type of training has been safely and effectively conducted for more than two decades and even more recently, was evaluated by both Navy and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) during development and review of the Marianas Islands Training and Testing Final Environmental Impact Statement (MITT FEIS), associated Biological Opinion and resulting Aug. 31, 2016 Letter of Authorization. 

This was all done in accordance with the multi-year environmental analysis conducted by the Navy, by which the National Marine Fisheries Service, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act, granted the Navy authorization to conduct underwater detonation training.

Additionally, in May of 2017 Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, Joint Region Marianas Commander, met with the 34th Legislature on this topic to hear public concerns and explain the process and we continue to work with newly elected officials to ensure they have that same information. Explosive Ordinance Disposal Mobile Unit 5 performs routine underwater detonation training to develop the skills needed to be ready to rapidly respond to operational missions throughout the region to ensure a stable, free and open Indo-Pacific while they continue to provide unexploded ordnance support on Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

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