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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Navy Commits to Meeting With Stakeholders

US Navy officials have committed to working with fishermen and other stakeholders in advance of the next Northern Edge, a major simulated warfare exercise scheduled for the summer of 2017 in the Gulf of Alaska.

Navy officials said on Oct. 7 that they plan meetings with the local governments of Kodiak, Homer, Cordova, and Seward, plus discussions with stakeholders at events including COMFISH at Kodiak and the Alaska Marine Science Symposium and Alaska Forum on the Environment, both held in Anchorage.

Military representatives also will attend local, regional and statewide events to initiate a two-way dialogue with residents of coastal communities, fishing interests, the scientific and environmental community and local, state and federal officials, said Dennis McGinn, assistant secretary of the Navy Energy, Installation and Environment. The commitment came from McGinn in a letter to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who had written to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, urging the Navy to reengage with stakeholders in communities adjacent to Northern Edge 2017 with all deliberate speed.

Murkowski noted that the city of Homer City Council had already adopted a resolution of opposition to the Navy’s involvement in Northern Edge 2017, and that further delay in communications with stakeholders could result in the adoption of similar resolutions by other coastal communities.

Murkowski said she was troubled to learn that a number of proposed mitigations and avoidance techniques were in the works, but could not be discussed with stakeholders due to a lack of public affairs guidance. Murkowski said she also found troubling reports that the Navy denied Freedom of Information Act requests submitted by marine conservation biologist Rick Steiner, who had sought to verify the impact levels of Northern Edge 2015. “This lack of transparency only fuels concerns that the Navy has something to hide regardless of whether there is any validity to the concerns,” she said.

Steiner had strongly criticized Northern Edge activities in the Gulf, which involved live shelling, numerous surface explosions, aerial drops and intensive deployment of active mid-frequency sonar systems that have been linked to acoustic damage and stranding events in marine mammals.

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