The U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing (AFTT) Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (OEIS) has been released to the public. This EIS/OEIS evaluates the potential for environmental effects from training and testing activities conducted within the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing Study Area, including the Atlantic Ocean off the eastern coast of North America, in portions of the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, at Navy pier-side locations and port transit channels, near civilian ports, and in bays, harbors, and inland waterways (e.g., the lower Chesapeake Bay). The study area covers about 2.6 million square nautical miles of ocean area and includes designated Navy operating areas and special use airspace.
Activities analyzed in the EIS are a continuation of training and testing that has been conducted in the AFTT study area for the last 70 years. These activities, which include the use of active sonar and training with explosives, are required to support Navy military readiness requirements beginning in 2018 and continuing into the reasonably foreseeable future.
The Navy is committed to protecting the marine and coastal environments of the AFTT study area, and employs mitigation measures to reduce potential effects from training and testing activities. The Navy used the best available science and collaborated with other government stakeholders to ensure the mitigation approach is reasoned, practical, and sustainable.
The Navy will continue to use previously agreed upon mitigation measures as well as implement new mitigation measures discussed in the Final EIS to reduce impacts to marine species and habitats, including the North Atlantic right whale population.
Specific new mitigations include:
- Enlarging the Northeast North Atlantic right whale mitigation area to cover the full extent of critical habitat designated after previous permits were issued;
- Implementing annual reporting of active sonar and in-water explosives to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) in designated Northeast and Southeast mitigation areas; and
- Expanding the area in which Navy units conducting training and testing activities in the southeast will obtain North Atlantic right whale sighting information (to cover the entire Jacksonville operating area).
The Navy prepared this EIS/OEIS as part of an ongoing process to ensure continued compliance with federal environmental laws and regulations. The document is part of the Navy’s overall commitment to protecting the environment while ensuring effective and realistic training and testing activities.
NMFS was a cooperating agency in the preparation of this document, and the EIS/OEIS uses the best available science to assist in authorizing permits under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Navy’s current permits expire in November 2018. In addition to MMPA and ESA, this EIS supported the Navy in facilitating consultations which are required under other applicable environmental laws and regulations, including the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) and Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Act, among others. Public input was a valuable part of the EIS process, and the Navy accepted input through a comment period, conducted from June 30, 2017 to Aug. 29, 2017.
The Final EIS/OEIS and additional information can be found on the U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) Command environmental website at https://www.public.navy.mil/usff/environmental, the project website at http://www.aftteis.com, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency EIS database website at https://cdxnodengn.epa.gov/cdx-enepa-public/action/eis/search. The USFF and project websites provide background information on the environmental topics referenced in the project documents, informational videos, fact sheets and related links.
Copies of the Final EIS/OEIS are also available at the following local libraries:
- Anne Arundel County Public Library, 5 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis, MD 21401
- Bay County Public Library, 898 West 11th Street, Panama City, FL 32401
- Ben May Main Library, 701 Government Street, Mobile, AL 36602
- Boston Public Library, Central Library, 700 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116
- Camden County Public Library, 1410 Highway 40 E, Kingsland, GA 31548
- Carteret County Public Library, 1702 Live Oak Street, Suite 100, Beaufort, NC 28516
- Charleston County Public Library, Main Library, 68 Calhoun Street, Charleston, SC 29401
- La Retama Central Library, 805 Comanche, Corpus Christi, TX 78401
- East Bank Regional Library, 4747 West Napoleon Avenue, Metairie, LA 70001
- Dare County Library, Manteo, 700 Highway 64/264, Manteo, NC 27954
- Havelock-Craven County Public Library, 301 Cunningham Boulevard, Havelock, NC 28532
- Jacksonville Public Library, 303 North Laura Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202
- Kill Devil Hills Branch Library, 400 Mustian Street, Kill Devil Hills, NC 27948
- Houston Public Library, 500 McKinney Street, Houston, TX 77002
- Hyannis Public Library, 401 Main Street Hyannis, MA 02601
- New Hanover County Public Library, 201 Chestnut Street, Wilmington, NC 28401
- New Orleans Public Library, Main Library, 219 Loyola Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70112
- Monroe County Public Library, 700 Fleming St., Key West, FL 33040
- Onslow County Public Library, 58 Doris Avenue East, Jacksonville, NC 28540
- Pascagoula Public Library, 3214 Pascagoula Street, Pascagoula, MS 39567
- West Florida Public Library, Pensacola Library, 239 North Spring Street, Pensacola, FL 32502
- Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Square, Portland, ME 04101
- Providence Public Library, 150 Empire Street, Providence, RI 02903
- Public Library of New London, 63 Huntington Street, New London, CT 06320
- Slover Memorial Main Library, 235 East Plume Street, Norfolk, VA 23510
- Walton County Library, Coastal Branch Library, 437 Greenway Trail, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 28557
- Webb Memorial Library and Civic Center, 812 Evans Street, Morehead City, NC 28557
- West Florida Public Library, Southwest Branch, 122248 Gulf Branch Highway, Pensacola, FL 32507
- Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach, 411 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach, FL 33401
A Record of Decision (ROD) is expected to be issued by the Navy in early November and it will be announced in the Federal Register.