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Underwater inspections begin in planned Futenma move

Date Posted: 2007-05-02

The first series of underwater inspections at Oura Won Bay are under way, the initial steps toward creating a new military airfield to replace Futenma Marine Corps Air Station in Ginowan.

A passive sonar inspection began last week, along with installation of waterproof underwater cameras. Officials say the first round of studies will be to observe the Jugon fish, sea turtles and other ocean animals and their lifestyles. The goal from these tests, they say, are to determine how whales and dolphins figure into the waters needed for the airfield.

The video cameras are set up, complete with lights, at 14 locations. The cameras are placed 10 meters apart to cover the proposed construction area. Okinawa Prefecture officials refuse to reveal exactly where the cameras are situated.

The sonar units will be set up in 30 different locations. Each of the units is protected by a one meter thick protective iron plate.

Other tests and studies now beginning involve coral egg inspections, using machines set up in 39 different places, and putting ocean weather stations in place. The weather units will use sound waves to track waves, streams, temperatures, pollution in the water and changes in topography. An official says waters will be monitored to determine how they become muddy, and how sand, stones and other floating objects move through the Oura Bay.

The bay waters are less than 30 meters deep, so officials say there should be little difficulty in setting the study equipment in place.

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