NORFOLK, Va. –
Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, the Department of the Navy (including both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps), jointly with the U.S. Coast Guard (hereafter referred to as Action Proponents), announces its intent to prepare a supplement to the 2018 Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing (AFTT) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (OEIS).
In the Supplemental EIS/OEIS, the Action Proponents will assess the potential environmental effects associated with ongoing and future at-sea military readiness activities conducted within the AFTT EIS/OEIS Study Area (Study Area) beyond 2025. Military readiness activities include training and research, development, testing, and evaluation (testing). It will include an analysis of these activities using new information that became available after the release of the 2018 Final EIS/OEIS.
Activities that will be assessed in the Supplemental EIS/OEIS are consistent with those analyzed in the 2018 Final EIS/OEIS and are representative of training and testing activities the Action Proponents have been conducting in the Study Area for decades. The Study Area remains consistent with what was described in the 2018 Final EIS/OEIS with the addition of some inland waters within the Gulf of Mexico coast, and is comprised of operating areas (seaspace) and warning areas (airspace) located in the Atlantic Ocean along the eastern coast of North America, the Gulf of Mexico, and portions of the Caribbean Sea, at select Navy pierside locations, within port transit channels, and some inland waters.
The purpose of the Proposed Action is to maintain a ready force, which is needed to ensure the peacetime promotion of the national security interests and prosperity of the United States and for prompt and sustained combat incident to operations at sea and to meet the needs of war, consistent with Title 10, section 8062, of the United States Code.
The Proposed Action is to conduct at-sea training and testing activities within the Study Area. Activities include the use of active sonar and explosives while employing marine species protective mitigation measures. The Proposed Action does not alter the original purpose and need as discussed in the 2018 Final EIS/OEIS.
The Supplemental EIS/OEIS will evaluate the expected social, economic and environmental effects resulting from implementing the action alternatives and the no action alternative. Resource areas that will be addressed include, but are not limited to: biological resources (including marine mammals and other protected species), sediments and water quality, air quality, noise, cultural resources, socioeconomic resources, and public health and safety.
New information to be analyzed in this document will include an updated acoustic effects analysis, updated marine mammal density data, and evolving and emergent best available science. Proposed activities and study area are consistent with those analyzed in the 2018 AFTT EIS/OEIS.
IMPORTANT DATES: The 30-day public scoping period begins November 17, 2023 and ends December 16, 2023. The scoping process is used to identify the full range of issues including public concerns and local issues to be considered during the development of the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS.
Federal agencies, state agencies, local agencies, the public, and interested persons are encouraged to provide substantive comments on environmental resources and areas of concern that the commenter believes the Action Proponents should consider. More information can be found on the project website at https://www.nepa.navy.mil/aftteis.
Comments must be postmarked or submitted electronically via the website no later than 11:59 PM Eastern Time on December 16, 2023 for consideration during the development of the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS.
HOW TO SUBMIT COMMENTS: Comments can be submitted in one of the following ways:
• Electronically by 11:59 PM on December 16, 2023 via the project website at https://www.nepa.navy.mil/aftteis
• By mail, postmarked no later than December 16, 2023 to the following address:
Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command, Atlantic,
6506 Hampton Boulevard, Building A
Norfolk, Virginia, 23508-1278
ATTN: EV22, AFTT SEIS Project Manager
After the scoping period the Action Proponents will coordinate with participating and cooperating agencies to develop a Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS. The Draft Supplemental EIS/OES is anticipated to be available for public review in the fall of 2024. The Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS is anticipated to be released in the fall of 2025.