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Public Statements

Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Holds Hearing on FY2004 Defense Authorization

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

PRYOR:

    Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Ms. Clarke, I think you mentioned this in your statement a few moments ago, but in your opinion, what is DOD's track record when it comes to environmental issues?

CLARKE:

    DOD has been really terrific environmental stewards over the long haul. They have a very serious commitment to environmental stewardship from anything I can tell from when I was an Army biologist to when I was at the Fish and Wildlife Service. And I believe that the solutions being worked out at the local levels, at the installation levels with the field ops (ph) at the Fish and Wildlife Service demonstrate that track record.

PRYOR:

    But even given that background, you're still reluctant to agree with what DOD wants at this point?

CLARKE:

    Well, those are two different issues. I think that the installation Fish and Wildlife Service field office, kind of local, tailored solutions, case-by-case, species-by-species, military training activity -- however it works out, you end up with dovetailed solutions that work for military readiness and species conservation being worked out among experts in military training and species conservation.

    And you have that appropriate check and balance along the way. To do a broad-scale national exemption that says you have an end-run (ph) for your exempt doesn't lend itself to the site-specific evaluations that are conducted. And the flexibility of the Endangered Species Act is really unbelievably clear.

    If for some reason there was a -- you can work it out, you balance out the critical habitat through the 4(b)(2) exclusion and the secretary of defense always as that whole card -- doesn't have to go to the president. The secretary of defense always has that trump card of national security exemption as contained in 7(j).

    (Inaudible) I believe that the appropriate checks and balances are in the law, the appropriate flexibilities are in the law and the ability at the local level to work these issues out has been demonstrated over and over again.

PRYOR:

    Dr. Ketten, you're a scientist and I was curious about the science relating to the sonar. And scientifically, what evidence is there that it's adversely affecting marine life?

KETTEN:

    Senator, you're referring to sonar in general, mid- range?

PRYOR:

    Well, I'm talking the LFA sonar.

KETTEN:

    There is no evidence related to LFA of physical harm to any marine mammal, to the best of my knowledge.

PRYOR:

    Not physical harm. What about changing in behavior patterns or mating habits, or moving out of waters where it's being used. I mean, tell the committee about that?

KETTEN:

    The behavioral studies that are being done anticipated that the anticipated received levels, there were no significant behavioral changes. Going back to the question of biological significance, as opposed to individual impacts, which Senator Ensign had asked before, biological significance means that you impact the population, the ability of the species, locally or more broadly, to survive, to grow, or to prosper. It does not mean that a single individual has a temporary or a permanent effect on it. The conclusion of the studies from the LFA behavioral trials where the sources were being used at lower than operational levels -- but still, the received level at the animal is the critical issue, not the source level -- there were no indications of significant behavioral effects.

PRYOR:

    So is it your opinion then that it has no adverse affect on marine life?

KETTEN:

    It is my opinion that we have no data indicating that there would be an adverse effect if deployed as it has been described.

PRYOR:

    OK.

    Ms. Young, do you recognize the importance of detecting this new generation of diesel submarines? Do you recognize that as an important military purpose?

YOUNG:

    Yes, I do. We haven't stopped the use of LFA, we have restricted its use. It's still being used. It's still being tested in an area that is restricted from what was originally proposed. So we haven't stopped its use. We've recognized its importance. But I think what we need to focus on here is the changes that we're talking about in this legislation and the terms biological significance. And I've heard discussions about animals turning their heads. That's not what this is about. We're talking about sweeping changes that would modify the definition of harassment and the incidental take (ph) to such an extent that many of these activities would no longer be required to get a permit.

    We're not talking about the agency issuing permits for animals that have turned their heads. There have been over 20 permits issued to the military. What we're talking about, in terms of permits that have been issued to them, are for ship shock trials where thousands of pounds of explosives have been used, and so we needed to monitor and mitigate that activity. We're also talking about missile firings where animals stampede and pups are killed or other animals were killed when an entire population is flushed into the sea.

    What we don't know, scientifically, when we're talking about biological significance or insignificance, (inaudible) the Marine Mammal Commission acknowledged that we cannot distinguish between activities that will have significant long-term effects and those that will not.

    We cannot really distinguish between biological significance and insignificance. And to show you the problems that we have in some areas such as Hawaii, we have 20 species of animals in Hawaii. Eight of those have no population estimates whatsoever. We know virtually nothing about them. We don't even know what the human impacts or level of harassment are to those animals. So we cannot assess negligible impact. We cannot even begin to assess what the military activities, let alone other human activities, will have to the survival and reproduction and recovery of these animals.

PRYOR:

    Mr. Pirie, I have one quick question for you. You mentioned the encroachment on Pendleton. And later a witness, I believe it was Ms. Clarke, said that there is something about the DOD claiming it was 57 percent, and then now it's actually just 1 percent. Could you talk about that?

PIRIE:

    I'm not really current, Senator Pryor, in this area. I can only repeat what I knew as of the time I left the department, and that was that General Hanlon, who was then commander out there, thought that 57 percent of his available area would be impacted in one way or another by one or another of the critical habitat designations for various different endangered and threatened species.

SIEGEL:

    Senator, may I add something about Camp Pendleton?

PRYOR:

    Yes.

SIEGEL:

    The major threat to Camp Pendleton today is urban sprawl. There is a proposed new city at Mission Vieho (ph) just on the northern boundary of the base, underlying those significant military airspace. State of California has passed legislation which would require the locality to consider military readiness in evaluating that, but thus far the Defense Department hasn't come up with the funds that the Navy has asked for to implement that. The facility wants to buy a buffer zone there.

    There are solutions to these problems out there, and, again, they aren't necessarily in the legislation that's proposed by the Defense Department. Camp Pendleton is being encroached upon, no doubt about it.

PRYOR:

    Well, Mr. Chairman, if you'll indulge me just for another 30 seconds, just to follow up on that. And this is really for whoever wants to take it, or all of you. As I understand, Camp Pendleton's situation is there is a lot of urban encroachment, suburban development all around it, and certainly there are environmental issues related to it. But there are also cultural issues about Native American remains, and there's a whole range of issues.

    So, from my perspective, and tell me if I'm wrong, the environmental piece of the puzzle is an important piece to Camp Pendleton, but it would be misleading to say it's the only piece. There are a lot of different issues that relate to Camp Pendleton. Do you all agree with that?

PIRIE:

    I certainly agree. I mean, it's part of the last green space in southern California, and to a large degree, a victim of its own success. Because it's the habitat that is left and it has been very successful in protecting the species that are there.

CLARKE (?):

    If I could just add one thing, Senator Pryor, Camp Pendleton has been in kind of neon blinking lights for a number of years because of its visibility in southern California as being one of the last green spaces. And lots of credit to the military for keeping it that way, for sure. It's like flying over the Chesapeake Bay when you see big green spots, Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Meade.

    It's just, as Mr. Siegel said, it's what's happening in this country today. There are two kind of conflicting issues or competing stories on the Camp Pendleton issue as it relates to endangered species. One is the critical habitat issue. I think facts will show, because the final regulation of critical habitat demonstrates, less than 1 percent balanced out the military.

    The other issue that I think came up earlier had to deal with the amphibious landing and the amount of shoreline that is compromised as allegedly because of endangered species, where in effect I think Mr. Siegel's comment is really well taken here, in that the impact to amphibious landings comes from Interstate 5, they come from railroad, they come from a nuclear generation plant. And the ESA conflict comes from a few months a year, and it does exist, where two endangered birds are nesting on the beach. And so there's a work-around for that. But the significant conflict on the shores of Camp Pendleton come from urban sprawl, not from ESA.

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