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What is NEPA?

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to consider potential environmental impacts on the human, natural, and cultural environment before making a decision on a major federal action.

What is an EIS?

An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is a report that provides a detailed analysis of the potential effects that a major federal action may have on people and the environment.


  • Is prepared by a multidisciplinary team
  • Considers alternative ways to accomplish the proposed action
  • Includes consultation and incorporates comments from other federal, state, and local agencies that have jurisdiction, either by law or special expertise
  • Includes an early and open process for public involvement

Why is the U.S. Navy Preparing a Supplemental EIS/OEIS?

The Navy prepares a supplemental EIS/OEIS to:

  • Update the environmental analyses of military readiness activities.
  • Adjust training and testing activities from current levels to the level needed to support Navy requirements in the future.
  • Update environmental analyses by continuing to use the best available science and most current analytical methods to re-evaluate the potential effects of military readiness activities on the marine environment.

A supplemental EIS/OEIS supports the renewal and issuance of federal regulatory permits and authorizations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act using the best available scientific information currently available to assess potential environmental impacts. The analysis and results will be presented in a draft supplemental EIS/OEIS.

What is Scoping?

Scoping occurs at the beginning of the NEPA process. The purpose is to invite input from citizens and federal, state, and local agencies to comment on the scope of analysis, including the alternatives and resources to be considered during development of the draft EIS.

Can't You Use Simulators for Training and Testing?

  • When possible, Sailors use simulators and other advanced technologies when training and testing, and recent advancements and improvements in simulator technology has led to an increase in usage. Simulation, however, can only work at the basic operator level and cannot completely replace training and testing in a live environment.
  • While simulators provide early skill repetition at the basic operator level and enhance teamwork, there is no substitute for live training in a real-world environment. The Study Area provides a range of realistic training environments and sufficient air and sea space necessary for safety and mission success.
  • Despite advancements and improvements to simulator technology, there are still limits to the realism technology can provide.
    • Simulation cannot provide the real-world accuracy and level of training needed to prepare naval forces for deployment
    • Simulation cannot replicate a high-stress environment 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
  • For Training: Simulators are used for the basic training of sonar technicians, but are of limited utility beyond basic training.
  • For Testing: Although simulation is a key component in the development of vessels, aircraft, and systems, it does not provide all the critical data on how they will perform, whether they will be able to meet performance and other specification requirements in the environment in which they are intended to operate, or how they work in relation to other systems. For this reason, vessels, systems, and components must undergo at-sea testing.

Why is Training and Testing with Explosives Necessary?

  • To the extent possible, Sailors train and conduct tests using inert (non-explosive) practice munitions. Non-explosives, however, cannot completely replace training and testing in a live environment.
  • Testing with explosive ordnance is essential to ensure systems function properly in the type of environment they will be used.
  • Training and testing at sea with explosives significantly enhances the safety of U.S. forces in combat and improves readiness and equipment reliability.
  • Training in a high-stress environment, including the use of and exposure to explosive ordnance, is necessary for Sailors to be fully prepared to respond to emergencies, national security threats, and to ensure their safety.
  • Training and testing with in-water explosives is limited, occurs only in established operating areas, and only after the Navy issues notices to mariners and pilots to ensure public safety. 

Why is the Proposed Action Needed?

The Proposed Action is needed to meet military readiness requirements. Training and testing must be diverse and as realistic as possible to fully prepare Navy personnel for what they will experience in real-world situations and ensure their success and survival.

What Types of At-Sea Training Currently Occur?

  • The Navy must maintain a rigorous, comprehensive training regimen to ensure ships are ready to deploy on schedule and Sailors are prepared to carry out their duties as required. The required training that occurs in the study area encompasses all levels of training, from basic to advanced, including integrated events and sustainment training. Integrated training combines individual units and staffs into strike groups or other combined-arms forces, resulting in deployment certification. Sustainment training allows strike groups to maintain their highest level of readiness and proficiency. Training in these areas are vital to the continued readiness of Sailors.
  • The study area provides Sailors with regional resources and the opportunity to practice skills and build experience through a progression of training in the operation of aircraft, ships, and submarines. Sailors train in the following areas:
    • Air Warfare
    • Anti-Submarine Warfare
    • Electronic Warfare
    • Mine Warfare
    • Surface Warfare
  • Tactical training includes activities where personnel and crews learn skills they need to operate machinery or weapons. These activities include:
    • Operating vehicles, aircraft, submarines, and ships
    • Conducting weapons training
    • Detecting and locating submarines
    • Finding and removing in-water practice mines and other explosive ordnance disposal
    • Training Navy divers in a cold-water environment

Will the U.S. Navy use Sonar in the Study Area?

Yes. The U.S. Navy proposes to continue to conduct at-sea training and testing activities, which include the use of active sonar while employing marine species protective measures, within the study area. The Navy will reanalyze the potential environmental effects of sonar use in the supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) or overseas environmental impact statement (OEIS).

Will the U.S. Navy Consult with Tribes to Ensure Their Concerns are Addressed?

In conformance with Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments, November 2000), and in fulfillment of the Department of Defense and Navy tribal Government-to-Government consultation policies, the Navy consults with federally recognized tribal governments when Navy proposed actions have the potential to significantly affect tribal rights, resources, or lands.

What Measures are Implemented to Protect Marine Life?

  • All U.S. Navy units are required to follow the same standard operating procedures for at-sea sonar training and testing activities, in addition to any particular event mitigation measures.
  • All units conducting such training and testing at sea use the Protective Measures Assessment Protocol (PMAP) tool, which is a decision support and situational awareness tool that facilitates compliance with mitigation measures for at-sea training and testing activities.
    • Protective Measures Assessment Protocol (PMAP): PMAP is a software tool the Navy uses prior to conducting all at-sea training and testing activities. PMAP provides a map that displays the location of the training or testing activity relative to any protected or sensitive marine resources in the vicinity. Based on the location, date, and type of activity being conducted, PMAP generates a report of the specific measures that naval units must implement to protect marine resources and to ensure compliance with mitigation requirements. The final suite of required mitigation measures contained in the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Records of Decision, the Marine Mammal Protection Act Letters of Authorization, and the Endangered Species Act Biological Opinions are integrated into the PMAP.
  • Mitigation Measures: Avoiding impacts from at-sea training and testing on the marine environment is an important goal for the Navy. In its commitment to environmental protection, and in compliance with existing laws, permits, and authorizations, the Navy follows strict guidelines and employs measures to reduce effects on marine species while at-sea training and testing. The measures provided here include some, but not all, existing at-sea mitigation measures.
    • Posting qualified Lookouts: Navy personnel undertake extensive training to qualify as lookouts in accordance with the Navy’s Lookout Training Handbook. All lookouts must complete Marine Species Awareness Training Program approved by NMFS. Navy lookouts visually observe for the presence of marine species within mitigation zones.
    • Observing the area prior to activities: Marine mammals and sea turtles can only be detected visually while at the surface, and marine mammals can only be detected acoustically while vocalizing underwater. Therefore, before certain activities are conducted, the area is scanned visually and, when possible, monitored acoustically.
    • Establishing mitigation zones for marine species: A mitigation zone is designed to reduce potential impacts on marine species from certain at-sea training and testing activities. The size of a mitigation zone is unique for each activity. The Navy visually observes each zone. If a marine mammal or sea turtle is detected within the mitigation zone, the activity will cease until the animal exits the zone.
    • Navigating safely: While in transit, Navy vessel operators are alert at all times for objects in their path. Operators follow U.S. Coast Guard navigation rules, operate at a speed consistent with mission and safety, and take proper action if there is a risk of collision. Vessels avoid approaching marine mammals head on and maneuver to maintain a mitigation zone of 500 yards around whales and 200 yards around other marine mammals.
  • Mitigation measures for sonar and explosives include:
    • Looking for marine mammals and sea turtles, and floating vegetation and jellyfish (as indicators that marine mammals or sea turtles may be present), before the activity starts
    • Monitoring areas visually and acoustically (when practical) for marine mammals and sea turtles prior to certain activities
    • Establishing mitigation zones
    • Using highly trained Lookouts
    • Powering or shutting down active sonar or stopping explosive activity if marine mammals or sea turtles are observed within the mitigation zone

Would the U.S. Navy Limit Public Access to Certain Areas?

  • The Navy trains and conducts tests in a manner that is compatible with civilian activity.
  • Sailors share the ocean and coastal areas with the community and recognize the importance of public access. The Navy strives to be good neighbors by minimizing access restrictions and limiting the extent and duration of closures of public areas whenever possible while ensuring safety at all times. Some access restrictions must occur for public safety and the security of Navy assets and personnel.
  • When certain training and testing activities are scheduled, notices to mariners are published for public awareness and safety, helping mariners plan accordingly to avoid temporarily restricted areas. The Coast Guard publishes and broadcasts notices to mariners with location, activity, and duration information. Mariners are requested to read and adhere to the published notices.
  • The Navy has designated operating areas, warning areas, and restricted areas for both airspace and marine waters to indicate where and when it may not be safe for recreational and commercial activities to take place.

How Does the U.S. Navy Ensure its Training and Testing Activities Do Not Cause Safety Issues?

  • The safety of the public and Navy Sailors is of utmost importance. The Navy implements multiple safety precautions when planning and conducting at-sea training and testing activities. These measures, along with the cooperation of the public, enable safe at-sea training and testing. Some precautionary measures include:
    • Ensuring impact areas and targets are unpopulated prior to potentially dangerous activities
    • Canceling or delaying activities if public or personnel safety is a concern
    • Notifying the public of the location, date, and time of potentially dangerous activities
    • Implementing temporary access restrictions to training and testing areas when appropriate to ensure public safety
    • Conducting thorough environmental and safety reviews for all test systems before tests are conducted on range sites
  • The Coast Guard publishes and broadcasts notices to mariners with location, activity, and duration information. Mariners are requested to read and adhere to the published notices.
  • Prior to going into the water, most systems go through land-based testing and many have been tested in smaller fresh water areas or tanks. After an initial review, modifications are made, as needed, to minimize the potential impacts on public safety and the natural environment. 

Who Decides Whether or Not to Implement the Proposed Action?

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Energy, Installations, and Environment), is the decision maker regarding the selection and implementation of an alternative. The decision is based on many factors, including the details of the environmental analyses, breadth of public comment, recommendations from Navy commands, and mission requirements.

Who Will Provide Independent Oversight of the U.S. Navy's Environmental Analysis?

The Navy requests and actively solicits feedback and comments from the public, government agencies, elected officials, and nongovernmental organizations. Substantive public comments will be considered and incorporated into the supplemental EIS/OEIS, as applicable. Additionally, several federal and state agencies have regulatory authority and oversee Navy activities in the study area.

How Can My Concerns Be Heard?

You can participate in several ways:

  • During the scoping phase, the public provided input that will be considered in the development of the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS.
  • Public meetings will be held after the release of the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS, and public comments will be accepted.

Will My Input Actually Have Any Impact on this Process?

Yes. The purpose of the public scoping process is to provide information to the public about the Proposed Action and to solicit comments on the on the scope of the analysis, including potential environmental issues and viable alternatives. The Navy welcomes and appreciates your substantive comments. All substantive comments received during the 45-day scoping comment period will be reviewed and considered in the preparation of the Draft supplemental EIS/OEIS