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Is Navy plan a threat to world's oldest killer whales?

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Newborn killer whaleCould Ruffles and Granny be in trouble? At 59, Ruffles is the oldest known male orca in the world, one of an estimated 150 orcas known to inhabit the Puget Sound and the coast of Washington state. Granny is his 99-year-old mother.

Environmentalists fear for the safety of the whales as the U.S. Navy prepares to expand its operations in its Northwest Training Range Complex, which stretches from the coastline of Washington state to northern California.

"They're all very susceptible," said Howard Garrett, the president of Orca Network, a nonprofit group based in Washington state. "The Navy is single-minded and they're focused, and the whales are very much a secondary concern to them."

The group is among the many opponents in Washington state and California lining up against the Navy's plan.

The proposal, which has already been approved by the Obama administration, calls for increased sailor training and weapons testing on the site. It also includes the development of an underwater training minefield for submarines.

The site, which has been in use since before World War II, consists of 122,400 nautical square miles of space, equal roughly to the size of California. Navy officials are trying to allay concerns over their activities, telling the public that the marine life will be safe.

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