\(WASHINGTON, DC) – Representative Steve Knight (CA-25) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 on Wednesday that would resolve a long-standing issue involving protective regions for Southern Sea Otters near Point Mugu Naval Air Station in Ventura County.
The issue arose in 2012 with the expiration of a program that established an area around San Nicolas Island in which the Department of Defense (DoD) could conduct important military testing alongside the endangered Southern sea otter population. The area is divided into zones near Mugu Naval Air Station in which sea otters would be protected, as well as allow crucial Navy test operations could take place. Since the termination of this program, the zones have ceased to exist and the Navy has been forced to comply with onerous U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations and procedures. If the zones are not re-established, DoD testing and training could be put on hold- potentially putting national security at risk with only minimal environmental benefit for the Southern Sea Otters.
“This testing is crucial to military readiness that will allow our Navy and Marine Corps to preserve, protect, and defend, the United States in an ever changing world. This amendment will provide assurance to the Navy and allow it to continue testing off of San Nicholas and San Clemente Islands,” said Gene Fisher, co-chair of the Regional Defense Partnership-21st Century, a group of local government, business and civic leaders who advocate on behalf of the Naval Base Ventura County.
The Knight amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 in the House Armed Services Committee will allow the Department of Defense to conduct it’s testing unabated in two specific zones while protecting sea otters in other areas along the coastline. The amendment also includes monitoring and reporting requirements for Navy as well as a termination provision.
“The Ventura County coast is crucial for both the Department of Defense and the Southern Sea Otter. I am glad that this legislation finds a balance between the two,” said Knight.
The National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 passed the House Armed Services Committee 60-2 on April 30, 2015. It will now be sent to the House Floor for a vote.