U.S. Navy Exercises Spark Protest in Alaska

Over impact to marine ecosystem

May 15, 2015
Outside Magazine
31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

Some residents of Cordova, Alaska, fear a planned U.S. Navy training exercise will disrupt marine ecosystems in the Gulf of Alaska.    U.S. Pacific Fleet/Flickr

A U.S. Navy training exercise planned in the Gulf of Alaska has sparked protest in a small fishing town, the residents of which say it will damage the marine ecosystem, Alaska Dispatch News reported Friday.

Locals of Cordova, Alaska, plan to surround the fuel dock to protest the Navy’s use of 352,000 pounds of debris, including mercury, lead, and cyanide, and explosions in the exercises, Emily Stolarcyk, program manager for the Eyak Preservation Council, told Alaska Dispatch News.

“We’re looking at the cleanest and most pristine, full-of-life body of water we have left,” Stolarcyk said. “It’s a very pure food source that feeds a lot of people and provides a lot of jobs. And there’s absolutely no reason to do the training here.”

Military officials say the Navy has conducted training in the Gulf for decades with no major environmental harm. Air Force Captain Anastasia Wasem said there’s no endangered species habitat in the exercise zone, the northern border of which is about 70 miles from Cordova. She added that impacts to marine mammals would not be significant, and that salmon would not be affected.

Many in the community plan to protest the exercises, including Cordova City Council member Kristin Carpenter. “It’s pretty irresponsible adding more toxics to our marine environment when we know how important it is to support fisheries,” she said.

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