Navy to Sink Two Ships Per Year in Gulf Exercises

The United States Navy has decided to go ahead with the sinking of two derelict ships per year as part of its annual summer exercises in the Gulf of Alaska. Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Basel Action Network are concerned the ships will leak cancerous chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

Mark Matsunaga, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman in Hawaii, says the vessels are cleaned “very rigorously” before any sinking exercises.

But chemical contaminants aren’t the only concern. Kelly Harrell, the executive director for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, said intentionally sinking ships has raised many red flags in the gulf.

Harrell said the effects could be slightly mitigated, but the Navy has refused to take the measures to do so.

Harrell said the Environmental Protection Agency has granted permits to the Navy, but many environmental groups are asking the EPA to withdraw the decision. Matsunaga told the Anchorage Daily News that the Navy currently has no sinking exercises scheduled. The Navy concluded a study on the sinking exercise in May, and decided on the option that allowed them to send two ships to the bottom per year. The exercise is designed to allow aircraft, surface ships and submarines to fire live ammunition at life-size targets in real-world conditions.

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Jay Barrett is the news director at KMXT in Kodiak.

Brianna Gibbs is a reporter at KMXT in Kodiak.

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