Navy destroyer to visit Homer

USS Hopper, a U.S. Navy Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, visits Homer this weekend as part of Northern Edge, a joint military training exercise in the Gulf of Alaska and the state.

Hopper arrives Saturday afternoon, and will be in port through Tuesday, mooring at the Deep Water Dock on the Homer Spit. Sailors will be entertained by local service clubs and organizations, and also visit local schools. Arrangements at press time were tentative due to security concerns, said Lt. Rochelle Rieger, Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Third Fleet. No public tours are planned.

The Navy Band Northwest Brass Quartet plays at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center.

Hopper will arrive sometime Saturday afternoon, with a welcoming ceremony by a Navy brass band, Mayor Bryan Zak and other dignitaries.

Rieger said she did not have an exact time of arrival.

In a press release, the Eyak Preservation Council, Cordova, and the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society said they plan a demonstration at the Deep Water Dock staging area when Hopper arrives. “This action is intended to raise awareness and speak out against the timing and location of the U.S. Navy’s upcoming ‘war games’ in the Gulf of Alaska,” the groups said in a press release.

During hearings on renewal of an Environmental Impact Statement held by the Navy in the fall of 2014, many Homer residents protested the timing of Northern Edge during the spring whale migrations and fishing seasons. In workshops, Navy officials discussed mitigation procedures they use to avoid harm to marine mammals, including trained watchers on the look out for signs of whale spouts and other activity.

The Homer City Council in July 2015 also passed a resolution urging the Navy to hold exercises other than in the spring. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, also wrote a letter on April 7 to the U.S. Pacific Command urging it to conduct the Gulf of Alaska component of Northern Edge 2019 in the fall.