Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Dumping the Navy Way

During the Bush Administration – it continues under Obama – the Department of the Navy (DON) divided the coasts and oceans into a series of “testing range complexes” (TRC) driven by five-year plans to conduct warfare exercises. They already conduct these tests in the Atlantic (and recently announced a notice of intent to expand this area), the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific.

Additionally, after the public comment period ends on October 11, 2010, the Navy will conduct a plethora of war exercises along 122,400 nautical miles of air, surface, and subsurface space in Northern California, Oregon, and Western Washington.

To be sure, such testing is in accordance with Title 10, Section 5062 of the US Code that provides:

The Navy shall be organized, trained, and equipped primarily for prompt and sustained combat incident to operations at sea…responsible for the preparation of Naval forces necessary for the effective prosecution of war…with Integrated Joint Mobilization Plans…to meet the needs of war.

Perhaps people take war games for granted because such testing is provided for in this Code (fewer conspiracy theories if information is public?). But this information is not trickling down to the people it will affect. If anything, DON appears cagey about how it informs the public about its intentions.

Treat ’em rough…and tell ’em nothing

Rosalind Peterson is president and co-founder of Agriculture Defense Coalition (ADC). In a recent Raising Sand Radio interview (www.raisingsandradio.org) she said, “In Mendocino County (CA) there was a one-by-one inch ad in local papers of the smallest communities that the Navy could find in northern California, Oregon, and Washington. In Oregon they advertised in tiny communities with a total of about 250 people each. They didn’t publicize in the capital, Bend, or Portland or other, larger cities at all.”

Aides in California Senator Barbara Boxer’s office seemed to know little, if anything, about the Northwest Training Research Complex (NWTRC) when ADC’s Rosalind Peterson contacted them. A spokesperson said Boxer would “look into it.”

Peterson said, “If Senator Diane Feinstein and Congressman Thompson knew about it they did not notify their constituents along California’s northwest coast.”

War Games: Pacific Northwest

The Navy acknowledges that some testing is highly classified therefore the tests are not shared with the public at all. Its 1,000 page NWTRC Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) notes that the tests conducted off the Pacific Northwest coast will “take” an estimated 11 million marine mammals, about 2.7 million per year. A “take” is “a significant disruption in marine mammal foraging, breeding, and other essential behaviors”; death is implied.

The “take” for decimated fish and bird life and the life that supports them is not mentioned. Neither is the “take” for civilians in the zone conducting commercial and recreation enterprises during tests. Beyond directions to websites for “Long-range advance notice of scheduled activities” local fishing, cruise ships, boating, and daily aviation passenger carriers passing through test areas will not be informed on the days testing occurs.

These war games include “a total of 7,588 sorties…[of] fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (“drones ”), and naval vessels conducting exercises for 6,940 hours each year”1 with mid- and high frequency sonar, underwater constructions and detonations, bombing, missile and torpedo missions with arsenals from Hellfire missiles to drones and the use of air-, land- and water-borne “hazardous materials” (defined as solid, liquid, semi-solid, or gaseous “substances that pose a substantial hazard to human health or the environment by virtue of their chemical or biological properties”).

The list – “not exhaustive” – of chemical byproducts from underwater detonations, explosives, degradation products, failure and low-order detonations, and components of training materials is extensive. Hazardous materials discharged overboard beyond 12 nautical miles include spent acid, alkali (“carefully neutralize, dilute and flush overboard…”); solvents; water with corrosion inhibitors; aircraft washdown waste water; and submarine missile tube waste water that includes heavy metals and cyanide.

Physical debris includes live and expended ordnance and casings, sunken vessels, and blasted underwater construction.

Vessels, aircraft, and military equipment used in these activities carry and use hazardous materials with directives to manage the storage, use, and proper disposal of materials that may be harmful to the environment.

The list of materials to “Containerize for Shore Disposal” includes batteries, hydraulic fluids, insecticides, pesticides, waste oil, sludge, oily solid waste, grease, propellents, PCB, and mercury in the form of fluorescent bulbs.2

Given the Navy’s history, how and where are these materials disposed once “containerized”?

Out of Sight, Out of mind

The Navy has dumped explosives and vast amounts of other debris in the oceans for years. This is old news to NOAA, oceanographers, environmental groups, and the voiceless directly affected. NOAA has a map showing at least the last 60 years of the Navy’s suspected dump zones in the Gulf of Mexico.

Greg Gardner of South Beach, Florida reports in Indian River Magazine, “Closing Fort Pierce was a classic case of dump and run….To this day, ordnance washes up on Hutchinson Island beaches several times a year after heavy surf. ”

South Beach Mayor Bob Benton concurs. “They put trucks and tanks on barges and barges and dumped them in the Gulfstream….Tons and tons of Army hardware, hand grenades and bombs.”

Off the California coast drums and canisters leak radioactive material since the Navy dumped them after tests conducted at its San Francisco’s Hunters Point facilities.

The ongoing Superfund site clean up of former Naval Air Station, Alameda – at a cost, to date, of $428 million – regularly reveals mysterious contamination zones, sunken vessels, and toxic burn pits. During a recent Navy-sponsored tour, local residents watched from the bus as Navy personnel measured radiation on the vehicle’s tires with Geiger counters.

Yet the vast majority of Americans know little about the Navy’s dumping and warfare activities. Should We, the People, not know that the Navy’s ongoing five-year warfare test plans require only one EIS per TRC? And that any EIS can be extended without informing the public at all? And that these on-going activities affect our own and all other forms of life?

Howard Garrett, president of the Whidbey-based Orca Network’s board of directors, says this includes “almost everything alive in the ocean. Anything with an air pocket in their [sic] bodies.” The Navy says it will conduct fly-overs and set up watchers before performing potentially lethal sonar testing. “But, [for example] Orcas are by nature stealthy hunters. They traverse the entire Pacific Ocean, so they can be anywhere. They won’t be making noise so it will be extremely difficult for the Navy to know whether they are there before beginning testing.”

As goes the Pacific Northwest so goes the Atlantic

Meanwhile, as research and testing continues off US coasts, the Navy recently announced its intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Overseas EIS (OEIS) to evaluate:

…the potential environmental effects with military readiness training and research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) activities in the Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing (AFTT) study area. This covers approximately 2.6 million square nautical miles of ocean area, which includes Navy operating areas (sea space) and warning areas (airspace). While the majority of Navy training and many testing activities take place within operating and warning areas and/or on RDT&E ranges, some activities, such as sonar maintenance and gunnery exercises, are conducted concurrent with normal transits and occur outside of operating and warning areas. (Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing Notice of Intent)

That is, everything planned for the Pacific Northwest will be repeated – and improved – in the Atlantic.

ADC’s Rosalind Peterson said, “Each one of these five-years-testing programs is immense…and very costly. We, the tax-paying public, will pay to replace all the bombs, missiles, and other arsenal used for these live fire exercises; we will pay heavily for the environmental degradation of ocean, land, and air; we will pay very heavily for the collapse of the marine mammal, fish, and bird populations. We don’t realize that one set of activities has a wide-ranging set of consequences.”

The Navy Way

The NWTRC EIS Resource Section: Socioeconomics addresses cost from the point of view of how unobtrusive Navy testing will be and how little it will impact civilians and businesses.

It is important to note that there are no restricted areas in the NWTRC. Normal right of way for fishing boats and all other vessels is honored throughout the range complex. In fact, to prevent interference during the conduct of their activities, Navy ships and aircraft intentionally seek areas clear of all other vessel traffic for conducting their training.3

The Table of Annual Commercial Landed Catch and Value within Washington Waters (2007) carefully records every fish of economic significance – over four dozen, from northern anchovy that, for example, generated $35,883 that year, to Dungeness Crab, $54,479,797, to Sockeye salmon, $89,802, even to “Unspecified bait shrimp”, $219,648.

Then, “Due to the low level of Navy activities, and the lack of interaction between the Navy and commercial interests, there are no expected revenue losses in any offshore industry….”

Unsurprisingly, the EIS Socioeconomics segment concludes, “the Proposed Action would result in no significant impacts. Therefore, no mitigation measures are required.”4

A Better Way

Those focused on one-dimensional “national security” in terms of military might makes right – rather than a complex, multi-layered, integral system of living wonders that offer generative mysteries rather than threats – can be assured that the Navy, and the other branches of the US military, already has enough of our planet to conduct testing. It has been doing it for decades. It does not need – and should not have – even more of our precious, already-stressed, and shrinking planet.

Nevertheless, after three years and thousands of comments received by people and groups in the Pacific Northwest, Marianne Edain of Washington’s Whidbey Environmental Action Network (WEAN) perhaps it up, “I feel like a flea facing an elephant.”

Sources

1) NWTRC EIS – Hazardous Materials. Table 3.3-1: Number of Activities or Training Items Expended Annually – All Alternatives. Footnote 2, page 3.3-6.

2) NWTRC EIS – Hazardous Materials. Table 3.3-6: Selected Hazardous Materials Discharge Restrictions for Navy Vessels. Page 3.3-17.

3) NWTRC EIS – Socioeconomics. Page 3.14-7.

SUSAN GALLEYMORE is author of Long Time Passing: Mothers Speak about War and Terror, host of Stanford University’s Raising Sand Radio, and a former “military mom” and GI Rights Counselor. She was born in apartheid South Africa, lived in Israel from 1975 to 1977, and visited again in 2005. Contact her at media@mothersspeakaboutwarandterror.org.

More articles by:

SUSAN GALLEYMORE is author of Long Time Passing: Mothers Speak about War and Terror, host of Stanford University’s Raising Sand Radio, and a former “military mom” and GI Rights Counselor. Contact her at media@mothersspeakaboutwarandterror.org.

October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail