The Navy has prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (OEIS) for Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing (AFTT) activities in the seaspace in and the airspace over the Atlantic Ocean and the eastern coast of North America, portions of the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. The Navy has conducted previous analyses for these types of activities in the AFTT Study Area and signed a Record of Decision in November of 2013. This new AFTT EIS/OEIS will analyze the continuation of military readiness activities in the AFTT Study Area beginning in late 2018 into the reasonably foreseeable future.
In order to achieve and maintain military readiness, the Navy proposes to conduct training and testing activities at levels required to support Navy military readiness requirements into the reasonably foreseeable future; and accommodate evolving mission requirements associated with force structure changes, including those resulting from the development, testing, and ultimate introduction of new platforms (vessels, aircraft, and weapon systems) into the fleet.
The AFTT EIS/OEIS considers a No Action Alternative and two action alternatives that account for types and tempo of training and testing activities.
- No Action Alternative – Under this alternative, the Navy would not conduct proposed training and testing activities, and a permit under the Marine Mammal Protection Act would not be issued. This alternative does not meet the purpose and need for the proposed action.
- Alternative 1 – Under this alternative, the Navy would conduct training and testing activities needed to meet current and future readiness requirements, while better reflecting how unit level active sonar training events are typically conducted (e.g., through simulation or concurrently with major training exercises).
- Alternative 2 – Under this alternative, the Navy would conduct training and testing activities needed to meet current and future readiness requirements, but would assume unit level active sonar training would be completed through discrete events and not through the use of synthetic training. Additionally, the number and location of Composite Training Unit Exercises would increase over Alternative 2. Finally, this alternative includes a contingency for an increased amount of weapon system tests in response to potential increased world conflicts and changing Navy leadership priorities.
Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing Study Area
The Navy requires access to a variety of open-water areas to ensure training and testing activities can be conducted safely. The Study Area, covering approximately 2.6 million square nautical miles, includes activities in the water and in the air over the over the Atlantic Ocean, portions of the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, Navy pierside locations and port transit channels, waters near civilian ports, and inland waters (e.g., lower Chesapeake Bay).
The Navy is committed to providing continued access to surface water areas and airspace off the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico to other commercial and recreational users in the Study Area. However, for the public’s safety, the use of certain ocean areas may need to be temporarily limited during some training and testing activities.
- The United States Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security inform the commercial and private vessel about temporary closures via Notices to Mariners.
- The Federal Aviation Administration issues Notices to Airmen to disseminate information on upcoming or ongoing military exercises with resulting airspace restrictions.