A nearly two-year moratorium on the use of old warships for target practice, and then sinking these ships in U.S. waters, which was triggered by environmental and cost concerns, is being lifted.
The Navy is once again resuming this old practice, with three inactive vessels lined up to be sunk in the coastal waters off Hawaii. The Kilauea, Niagara Falls, and Concord will be sunk by torpedoes, bombs, and other ordnance during the Rim of Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises.
In a statement to The Associated Press, the U.S. Navy revealed that the military quietly lifted the moratorium on sinking exercise, or SinkEx, last year, following a review of the requirements, costs, benefits, and environmental impacts of the program.
There are concerns, however, regarding the long-term effects of toxic pollutants aboard ships, and conservation groups argue that old ships should be recycled at a ship-breaking facility instead. There is an ongoing lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, urging the Environmental Protection Agency to catalog and regulate SinkEx better.
Colby Self of the environmental group Basel Action Network, one of the groups that sued the EPA, said: “We are appealing to the Navy to continue their moratorium at least until our case is heard… After the vessels hit the sea-bottom, it will be a little too late to redress damages to our precious marine resources.”
The Navy, however, says that SinkEx provides the opportunity for live-fire training for times of war, as well as provides clean vessels for at-sea, live-fire exercises.