While the Navy has dropped controversial plans to deploy dolphins for underwater surveillance at a Washington state submarine base, it will continue to maintain a longtime marine mammal training program in California.

The Navy canceled its plans last month to station dolphins at its submarine base at Bangor, Wash., citing the reallocation of funds within the Defense Department and the need for budget reductions.

The Navy said its Naval Ocean Systems Center in San Diego, where many dolphins are trained, will "maintain plans to expeditiously resume" the dolphin deployment program if it proved necessary.

Navy spokesman Tom Lapuzza said 109 dolphins are being trained in San Diego, Key West, Fla., and Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

The battle over the dolphin training began in April 1989 when the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) filed suit against the Navy to prevent it from sending dolphins to its submarine base on Hood Canal in Bangor.

"I think we convinced the Navy that the program should be cut," said PAWS dolphin campaign coordinator Laurie Raymond. Animal rights groups, she said, feared that many of the 100 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in the Navy program would die if they were used as underwater policemen in the chilly waters of Puget Sound.

"I want the whole program to end," she said. "I don't think animals should be trained for war. The fact that dolphins are not in the Middle East during this conflict seems to indicate that the Navy is not altogether convinced that they're adequate weapons of war."

In May 1990, the Navy, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, agreed to do an environmental impact statement concerning potential health risks to dolphins if they should be deployed to Puget Sound. It also said it would review environmental studies by animal rights groups. Last September, the Navy conducted a public meeting in Silverdale, Wash., asking for comments on how it might improve its deployment plan. The Navy has said it will release the environmental findings.

The Navy has been training dolphins since 1960 and has used them in underwater surveillance for object detection, location, marking and recovery. In 1965, one of its dolphins was used to take tools and mail back and forth to the Sea Lab II project off La Jolla, Calif. The animal easily completed the task a number of times, racing 200 feet below the surface and back.

During the Vietnam War, five dolphins were sent to Cam Ranh Bay for underwater surveillance, and in 1986, the Navy sent six dolphins to the Persian Gulf, where they reportedly were used for mine detection during the war between Iran and Iraq.

The Navy said that from 1986 to 1988, 13 dolphins in its program died. One of those deaths came in 1988 during surveillance in Puget Sound, the Navy said. In response to allegations by a former Navy animal trainer and animal rights activists who accused the Navy of mistreating its sea lions and dolphins, the Marine Mammal Commission conducted two investigations. Both times the Navy's program was found to be caring properly for its animals, although the Navy acknowledged there were cases of animal mistreatment by Navy trainers.

"In the last year and a half, we have had no deaths in our program," Lapuzza said, adding that over the last seven years the Navy marine mammal program has recorded a 95 percent survival rate. "The {Defense Department} is and has been for several years looking very closely at all of its programs to determine where it can affect budget efficiency . . . this program was the victim of one of those budget cuts."