Proposed Action

The comment period has closed for the 2020 Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS. Thank you for your comments.

 
 

Proposed Action

The Navy is not proposing new training activities or increasing activities from current levels. The Navy's proposed training activities have occurred in the Study Area for decades.

The Navy’s Proposed Action is to continue periodic military training activities within the Gulf of Alaska Temporary Maritime Activities Area. Proposed training activities are similar to those that have occurred in this area for decades. The geographic extent of the Gulf of Alaska Temporary Maritime Activities Area has not changed from the 2011 and 2016 impact analyses. These activities include the use of active sound navigation and ranging, known as sonar, and weapon systems that may use non-explosive or explosive munitions at sea. The Navy would continue to implement mitigation measures to avoid or reduce potential impacts on marine species and the environment from training activities.

The types of activities and number of events in the Proposed Action remain consistent with previous documents (Alternative 1 in both the 2011 Gulf of Alaska Navy Training Activities Final EIS/OEIS and the 2016 Gulf of Alaska Navy Training Activities Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS), although there have been changes in the platforms and systems used in those activities. For example, the EA-6B aircraft and frigate, and their associated systems, have been replaced by the EA-18G aircraft, Littoral Combat Ship, and Destroyer.

The Supplemental EIS/OEIS includes the analysis of at-sea training activities projected to meet readiness requirements beyond 2022 and into the reasonably foreseeable future, and reflects the most up-to-date compilation of training activities deemed necessary to accomplish military readiness during that time period.

Purpose of and Need for the Proposed Action

The Supplemental EIS/OEIS is an update to the 2011 and 2016 impact analyses to support naval training requirements to achieve and maintain fleet readiness as required by Title 10 of the U.S. Code.

Importance of Realistic Training

Realistic training 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 must be diverse and as realistic as possible to prepare Sailors for what they will experience in combat situations to ensure their success and survival. Although simulation may be used for some training activities, there is no substitute for live training to achieve qualifications.

The military’s largest joint training exercise in Alaska is Northern Edge, which occurs biennially (typically every other year in odd years). These exercises are designed to replicate challenging scenarios and environmental conditions found around the world, and to prepare service members to respond to crises, such as natural disasters, global conflicts, and threats to homeland security.

Importance of Training with Active Sonar and Weapon Systems

The Navy proposes to continue training activities, which include the use of active sonar and weapon systems that may use non-explosive or explosive munitions. The Navy would continue to implement mitigation measures to avoid or reduce potential impacts on marine species and the environment from training activities.

One of the Navy's top priorities is to defend against enemy submarine activity. To detect potential hostile submarines, the Navy uses both passive and active sonar. Torpedoes, in-water mines, and quiet submarines from potential enemies are threats to global commerce and national security. More than 90 percent of the world’s trade is carried by sea; therefore, protecting the sea is critical. 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 at sea with explosives significantly enhances the safety of U.S. forces in combat and improves readiness and equipment reliability. Sailors must train in a variety of high-stress environments, including scenarios that involve the use of and exposure to explosive ordnance, to be prepared to respond to emergencies and national security threats.

 

 
Sonar Previous generation submarines 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 a U.S. vessel’s passive sonar detection range. Active sonar has a longer detection range that is needed to allow Navy Sailors to detect, identify, and track quiet, 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 Supplemental EIS/OEIS, the Navy evaluated potential environmental impacts of a no action alternative and an action alternative in which the Navy would reanalyze Alternative 1 from the 2016 Gulf of Alaska Navy Training Activities Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS.

No Action Alternative:

  • Authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act would not be reissued by the National Marine Fisheries Service
  • Proposed at-sea training activities would not occur
  • Purpose of and need for the Proposed Action would not be met

Alternative 1 (Preferred Alternative):

  • Navy training in the Gulf of Alaska Temporary Maritime Activities Area would continue at current levels
  • Current and future training requirements necessary to achieve and maintain fleet readiness would be met
     

Key Updates Made in the 2020 Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS

Proposed training activities are similar to those that have occurred in the Gulf of Alaska for decades and are consistent with those analyzed in the 2011 and 2016 impact analyses. In the 2020 Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS, the Navy:

  • Included a No Action Alternative in which the National Marine Fisheries Service would not issue Marine Mammal Protection Act authorization; therefore, proposed training activities would not occur.
  • Reanalyzed Alternative 1 from the 2016 GOA Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS; training activities would not increase from current authorized levels in the Gulf of Alaska.
  • Included improved acoustic models and updated marine species densities, hearing criteria, and thresholds.
  • Used the most current and best available science and analytical methods. 
  • Reviewed procedural mitigation measures, where appropriate, and considered additional geographic and/or seasonal mitigation measures, where applicable.
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)
Search and Rescue
An F/A-18E Super Hornet participating in Northern Edge 2019.