he Navy completed and released on Jan. 23 the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Atlantic Fleet Active Sonar Training (AFAST) Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (EIS/OEIS).
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for the Environment Donald Schregardus signed the ROD, marking completion of the EIS/OEIS process.
The AFAST EIS analyzed a set of alternatives including one that limited sonar training to designated areas or times during the year and another that continues with the present level of training in the same geographic areas while complying with protective measures set forth by federal regulators. The two-year, multi-million dollar EIS study revealed that limiting active sonar training in this way is not preferable to the protective measures the Navy previously developed with scientists and regulators.
Federal regulators confirm the Navy's current protections are effective in minimizing impacts on marine species.
As part of the EIS process, NOAA's Fisheries Service and the Navy worked to develop a robust monitoring plan to use independent, trained and experienced aerial and vessel-based marine mammal observers (as well as Navy watch standers) and passive acoustic monitoring to help better understand how marine mammals respond to various levels of sound and to assess the effectiveness of mitigation measures.
The Navy made its final decision after considering comments on the EIS from scientists, regulators, and the public. Based on the results of the study and the effectiveness of the measures already in place, the Navy decided to implement the "No Action Alternative," which means the Navy will continue with the present level of training in the same geographic areas while complying with protective measures set forth by federal regulators. It is not intended to increase the type or frequency of Anti-Submarine (ASW) or Mine Warfare (MIW) training along the East Coast of the United States and within the Gulf of Mexico.
The AFAST study is part of a $100 million effort to comprehensively evaluate the environmental impact of the Navy's training activities on all of its training areas. Policies resulting from the Fleet-wide review, which began four years ago, will seek to strike the proper balance between the Navy's statutory requirements to maintain military readiness while minimizing its impact on the environment.
The Final EIS/OEIS and the decision are available at http://afasteis.gcsaic.com/.