In the 2020 Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS, the Navy:
- Included a No Action Alternative in which the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) would not issue Marine Mammal Protection Act authorization; therefore, proposed training activities would not occur.
- Reanalyzed Alternative 1 using the most current and best available science and analytical methods.
- Included improved acoustic models and updated marine species densities, hearing criteria, and thresholds.
- Reviewed procedural mitigation measures, where appropriate, and considered additional geographic and/or seasonal mitigation measures, where applicable.
- The military's largest joint training exercise in Alaska is Northern Edge. Exercises occur biennially (typically every other year in odd years). The Navy has participated in Northern Edge since the 1990s. These exercises are designed to replicate challenging scenarios and environmental conditions found around the world, and prepare service members to respond to crises, such as natural disasters, global conflicts, and threats to homeland security.
- Northern Edge exercises typically last up to 21 days and occur between April and October when weather conditions are more ideal, which enhances training and reduces safety risk. Training activities are not conducted in extreme weather conditions due to safety concerns. Given the significant investment in resources associated with bringing military forces to Alaska, the exercises are scheduled for periods with the greatest chance for favorable weather. The specific dates of each biennial exercise are determined based on the availability of forces, deployment schedules, maintenance periods, and other exercises underway within the Pacific.
- When possible, Sailors use simulators and other advanced technologies when training. Simulation, however, can only work at the basic operator level and cannot completely replace training in a live environment. Lack of realistic training will jeopardize the lives of Navy personnel in actual combat situations.
- Despite advancements and improvements to simulator technology, there are still limits to the realism technology can provide.
- Simulation cannot provide the accuracy and level of training needed to prepare naval forces for deployment.
- Simulation cannot replicate a high-stress environment, including the sounds, visuals, and adrenaline, nor the complexity in coordinating with other military personnel.
- Simulation cannot replicate dynamic environments involving numerous military forces and cannot accurately model sound in complex training environments.
To learn more about marine mammals, sonar, sound in the water, and the Navy’s ocean stewardship programs, visit:
- Sailors must train in a variety of high-stress environments, including scenarios that involve the use of and exposure to explosive ordnance, to be ready to respond to emergencies and national security threats.
- Sailors train using non-explosive munitions as often as possible. However, non-explosives cannot completely replace training in a live environment. Limited training with explosives occurs only in established operating areas. The Navy ensures public safety by establishing safety buffers around activity sites when in use. The Navy, in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard and Federal Aviation Administration, issues notices to mariners and pilots to ensure public safety.
- In the 2020 Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS, the Navy updated previous analyses of potential impacts with relevant new information and best available science. The Navy evaluated each resource area in the 2011 and 2016 impact analyses to determine the need for reanalysis. For the majority of the resource areas, results remain unchanged and do not require additional analysis.
- The Navy determined that new research, literature, laws, and regulatory guidance addressed in this Supplemental EIS/OEIS resulted in little or no change to the findings of the impact analyses in the 2011 GOA Final EIS/OEIS and the 2016 GOA Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS, and following resource areas were not carried forward for detailed reanalysis:
- Air Quality
- Sediments and Water Quality
- Marine Habitats
- Marine Vegetation
- Marine Invertebrates
- Cultural Resources
- Public Health and Safety
- The following resource areas were carried forward for detailed reanalysis:
- Sea Turtles
- Marine Mammals
- Socioeconomic Resources and Environmental Justice
- It is important to the Navy to avoid or minimize impacts on the marine environment from at-sea training activities. The Navy employs standard operating procedures and protective measures during sonar use as well as additional event-specific mitigation measures.
- No. The Navy does not restrict civilian navigation, including fishing vessels, commercial shipping, or aircraft, during Northern Edge maritime activities. The Navy is not making any changes to access to fishing areas; the access available now would remain the same.
- It is not the Navy’s intent to restrict public access; however, the safety of Navy Sailors and the public is of utmost importance.
- Navy personnel share the ocean and coastal areas with the community and recognize the importance of public access. The Navy strives to be a good neighbor by maintaining access to public areas whenever possible and ensuring safety at all times.
- When areas are scheduled for Navy use, the Navy coordinates with the Coast Guard and Federal Aviation Administration to publish notices to help the public plan accordingly. Appropriate local agencies are notified.
- After the close of the public review and comment period on the 2020 Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS, the Navy will collect and consider all comments received from interested individuals and groups. Scientists, including biologists (marine mammal specialists), botanists, ecologists, and other specialists, will incorporate applicable comments into the environmental analysis and develop the Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS.
- The Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS is an update to the 2020 Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS based on comments received during the public comment period. The Notice of Availability for the Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS will be published in the Federal Register and appropriate general circulation newspapers. The Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS will be filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and will be available to interested parties on the project website and at information repositories. The Final Supplemental will be released for a 30-day wait period. The Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS is expected in spring 2022.
- After the 30-day public review and wait period, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations, and Environment will select an alternative and issue a Record of Decision. The Navy’s Proposed Action cannot proceed until the wait period is complete. The Record of Decision provides a public record of the decision, describes the public involvement and agency decision-making processes, and presents the commitments to specific mitigation measures. It will be published in the Federal Register and will be available to the public.
- The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations, and Environment, which is responsible for all environmental and natural resource issues, is the decision-maker regarding the selection and implementation of an alternative. The decision is based on many factors, including the details of the Navy’s environmental impact analyses, breadth of public comment, recommendations from Navy commands, and mission requirements.
- Public involvement is a critical part of the NEPA process and there are a number of opportunities for the public to participate throughout the Supplemental EIS/OEIS development.
- You can ask questions of Navy representatives at the virtual public meetings.
- The public is encouraged to participate in any of the following ways:
Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest
Attention: GOA Supplemental EIS/OEIS Project Manager
1101 Tautog Circle, Suite 203
Silverdale, WA 98315-1101
- The Navy encourages you to submit written comments to ensure your comments are considered in the development of the Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS, comments must be postmarked or received online by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time Feb. 16, 2021
- Conducting a thorough analysis generally takes about a year following the 2020 Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS phase. The Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS is expected in winter 2022.
- When the Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS is available, a notice will be published in the Federal Register and in local newspapers, and the document will be available to view and download on the website. It will also be placed at public locations (information repositories), such as local libraries.
- The Record of Decision is expected in spring 2022. Please know that the release date may change. The Navy’s focus is to ensure that accurate and complete information and data, including substantive public comments, are collected and appropriately analyzed.