Public Comment Period Extended for NWTT Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS
The Navy has extended the public comment period for the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS an additional 15 days to June 12, 2019.

The Navy’s Proposed Action is to conduct training and testing activities at sea and in associated airspace within the Study Area beyond 2020. These activities continue to include the use of active sound navigation and ranging, known as sonar, and explosives while employing marine species mitigation measures. Proposed activities are similar to those conducted in the Study Area for decades and analyzed in the 2015 document.

The purpose of the Proposed Action is to conduct training and testing activities to ensure the Navy can accomplish its mission under Congressional direction in section 8062 of Title 10 of the U.S. Code to maintain, train, and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas.

To achieve and maintain military readiness, the Navy proposes to:

  • Conduct training and testing activities, at sea and in associated airspace, at levels required to support military readiness requirements beyond 2020.
  • Accommodate evolving mission requirements, including those resulting from the development, testing, and introduction of new vessels, aircraft, and weapons systems into the fleet.

The frequency and types of activities included in the Proposed Action account for fluctuations in training and testing to meet evolving or emergent military readiness requirements.

Importance of Training and Testing

Realistic training and testing activities are crucial for military readiness, personnel safety, and national defense

Sailors must be ready to respond to many different situations when called upon. The skills needed to achieve readiness are challenging to master and require constant practice. Training and testing must be diverse and as realistic as possible to prepare Sailors for what they will experience in real-world situations and to ensure their success and survival.

Equipment and systems must be tested before use by Sailors during deployment. Systems are tested in varying marine environments, such as differing water depths, seafloor types, salinity levels, and other ocean conditions, as well as replicated warfighting environments, to ensure accuracy and safety.

Although some training and testing may be accomplished in simulation, there is no substitute for live training and field testing to achieve final training qualifications and testing results.

Importance of Training and Testing with Active Sonar and Explosives

Defense against enemy submarines is a top priority for the Navy. To detect potential hostile submarines, the Navy uses both passive and active sonar. Torpedoes, in-water mines, and quieter submarines are true threats to global commerce, national security, and the safety of Sailors. Active sonar is the most effective method of detecting these threats. Sonar proficiency is complex and requires regular, hands-on training in realistic and diverse conditions.

Training and testing at sea with explosives significantly enhances the safety of U.S. forces in combat and improves readiness and equipment reliability. Training in a high-stress environment, including the use of and exposure to explosive ordnance, is necessary for Sailors to be fully prepared to respond to emergencies and national security threats, and to ensure their safety. Testing with explosives is essential to verify that systems will function properly in the environments they will be used.

Sonar

Submarines of the previous generation were noisy and could be detected with passive sonar before they came close enough to deploy short-range weapons against a vessel. Extremely quiet, difficult-to-detect, diesel-electric submarines can approach close enough to deploy long-range weapons before entering the passive sonar detection range of U.S. vessels. Active sonar has a longer detection range that is needed to allow Navy Sailors to detect, identify, and track quieter, modern submarines before they are close enough to attack.

Alternatives

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to evaluate a range of reasonable alternatives to achieve the purpose of and need for the Proposed Action. In the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS, the Navy evaluated the potential environmental impacts of three alternatives, including a No Action Alternative.

Alternative 1 (Preferred Alternative)

  • Includes adjustments to types and levels of training and testing to meet current and future requirements.
  • Includes the potential for an increase of approximately 300 aircraft flights per year in the Olympic Military Operations Areas.
  • Reflects a representative year of training and testing.
  • Consists of activities and requirements associated with the development, testing, and introduction of new vessels, aircraft, and weapons systems into the fleet.

Alternative 2

  • Includes all activities described under Alternative 1.
  • Includes additional adjustments to types and levels of activities to reflect the maximum number of training and testing activities that could occur within a given year.

No Action Alternative

  • Authorization from the National Marine Fisheries Service would not be issued.
  • Proposed at-sea training and testing activities would not be conducted.
  • Other military activities not associated with the Proposed Action would continue.
  • Purpose of and need for the Proposed Action would not be met.

For more information on the Proposed Action, alternatives, and types of training and testing activities, please see the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS.

Key Updates Made In The 2019 Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS

Proposed training and testing activities are similar to those conducted in the Pacific Northwest and southeastern Alaska for decades and analyzed in the 2015 document. In the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS, the Navy:

  • Included a No Action Alternative in which Marine Mammal Protection Act authorization would not be issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service; therefore, proposed training and testing activities would not be conducted.
  • Included analyses of both increases and decreases in training and testing activities from current levels.
  • Recategorized or renamed many testing activities for consistency.
  • Assessed potential acoustic impacts on marine species using an updated acoustic effects model, updated marine species criteria and thresholds, and more recent marine species density data.
  • Used the most current and best available science and analytical methods.
  • Reviewed procedural mitigation measures and considered geographic mitigation measures.
  • Analyzed the impact of aircraft noise over the Olympic Peninsula.

Proposed training and testing activities are similar to those conducted in the Study Area for decades and analyzed in the 2015 document.

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