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A lawsuit was filed to stop the Navy from conducting high-power sonar exercises off the coast of California. Conservationists believe that the sonar can be harmful to fish and marine animals. An injuction has stopped the Navy from performing high-power exercises within 12 miles of the coast. President Bush signed an exemption last week to allow the Navy to bypass the environmental law.

A federal judge in Los Angeles issued a preliminary injunction this month requiring the Navy to create a 12-nautical-mile, no-sonar zone along the Southern California coast and to post trained lookouts to watch for marine mammals before and during exercises. Sonar would have to be shut down when mammals were spotted within 2,200 yards, under the order.

The court found that using mid-frequency active sonar violated the Coastal Zone Management Act and Bush exempted the Navy from a section of that act. Complying with the environmental law would “undermine the Navy’s ability to conduct realistic training exercises that are necessary to ensure the combat effectiveness of carrier and expeditionary strike groups,” Bush said.

The exemption act will allow the Navy to use mid-frequency sonar in exercises for the next year. They defend their actions saying that they use many measures to lessen the impact on the environment. Sonar can hinder the use of the natural sonar in dolphins and whales in their pursuit of food and navigation.

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