YOKOHAMA, Japan — Yokosuka residents seeking suspension of dredging at Yokosuka Naval Base claim it may cause damage to them and to the environment.

The first hearing of their administrative lawsuit was held at Yokohama District Court on Wednesday. Residents want withdrawal of Yokosuka city’s acceptance of the Japanese government’s plan to dredge 600,000 cubic meters of dirt from Piedmont Pier.

The work is needed to house the incoming nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which is slated to replace the aging, conventionally fueled USS Kitty Hawk next year. Plaintiffs claim the city, which is the port manager and has responsibility to protect the port, should not have accepted the project because it may cause environmental deterioration as well as present danger with having a nuclear-powered carrier at Yokosuka.

Yokosuka city’s role in work conducted at the port is to make sure that the construction will be done in accordance with laws.

The same group filed a similar lawsuit in early April claiming the city cannot accept the project. However, Yokohama District Court rejected the claim on grounds residents are ineligible to suspend the plan. The city gave a go to dredging on April 26.

Plaintiffs consist of fishermen, peace activists and residents who fish in the port for pleasure.

The U.S. Navy is leaving the legal question to Japan.

“We understand that this case is with the Japanese authorities. We trust that they will make the best decision possible for the U.S.-Japan alliance,” said Cmdr. David Waterman, Commander, Naval Forces Japan spokesman.

Dredging is expected to start by mid-July.

Stars and Stripes reporter Chris Fowler contributed to this report.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.

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