|Description||The Coastal Commission met in Chula Vista June 6-8 at the Chula Vista City Council Chambers. On Wednesday, during the Executive Director’s report, the Director gave an overview of the Hollister Ranch HOA settlement, a significant coastal access issue in Santa Barbara County. The Commission also heard a consistency determination for the U.S. Navy’s 5-Year Testing and Training Activities Program in Southern California.|
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|Navy 5-Year Training and Testing|| The U.S. Department of the Navy submitted a consistency determination for their 5-Year Military Readiness Training and Testing Program Activities in Southern California. The training elements involve extensive use of active sonar and explosives.
Based on the Navy’s modeled estimates under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the proposed activities could result in the “behavioral harassment” of an annual average of 2.37 million marine mammals per year, and injury or potential injury to 576 marine mammals per year. Despite these numbers, the Navy asserts that the activities would not result in population-level effects to any species, and would be consistent with Coastal Act Section 30230.
In contrast, the staff recommendation found the Navy’s plan inconsistent with Section 30230, based on: the limited effectiveness of Navy detection and monitoring measures; uncertainties in assessing whether population-level effects on marine species may be occurring; and, the Navy’s unwillingness to limit, in a meaningful way, its sonar and explosives testing and training in areas of special biological significance for certain marine species (blue, fin, and beaked whales), as well as California’s marine protected area (MPA) network and national marine sanctuaries.
Staff’s proposed special conditions would require the Navy to establish larger “shut down” areas if marine mammals or turtles are sighted, prohibit harmful activities in sensitive areas, including MPAs, sanctuaries and important habitat areas, reduce activities in low visibility conditions, limit vessels speeds, improve observer effectiveness.
Given the Navy’s historic and current refusal to accept staff’s proposed special conditions, opponents – including Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Banning Ranch Conservancy, California Coastal Protection Network, San Diego Coastkeeper, and Surfrider Foundation – urged Commissioners to instead object to the consistency determination. Opponents assert that national security and environmental protections are not mutually exclusive and that the Navy can to do more to mitigate their impacts to marine life.
Ultimately, the Commission agreed with opponents and unanimously objected to the consistency determination.