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Navy will take public comment on Gulf of Alaska exercises

Aircraft sit on the flight deck of the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Wednesday, May 23, 2019. Carrier Air Wing 11 is attached to the Roosevelt, and is comprised of strike fighters, electronic warfare aircraft, command and control aircraft, and helicopters used for both search and rescue and warfare. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

JUNEAU — The U.S. Navy will collect public comment about its proposal for permits to again use the Gulf of Alaska for training exercises, a spokeswoman said.

"Any time the Navy wants to do any sort of action, they have to go through an Environmental Impact Statement," said Julianne Stanford of Navy Region Northwest.

Exercise Northern Edge is a major Army, Navy and Air Force exercise held every two years across Alaska, the Juneau Empire reported. The supercarrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its escorts took part in exercises in 2019.

The public in the past has expressed concern about Navy sonar and explosive ordnance disturbing marine life. The environmental review, Stanford said, is about hearing concerns so that the Navy can avoid negatively affecting marine mammals such as humpback whales, gray whales and Steller sea lions.

The Gulf of Alaska has been a training ground for more than three decades, Stanford said, and best practices have been put in place to minimize disruptions.

The Navy and regulatory agencies have not noted changes in marine mammals numbers in training areas, she said.

“The Navy has developed numerous mitigations that include navigating away from marine mammals, implementing exclusion zones to cease activities or power down and shut down equipment if marine mammals are in proximity to training,” Stanford said.


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