Navy seeks public comment on sonar use in training with supplement to environmental impact statement

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The U.S. Navy has completed a supplement to an environmental impact statement that examines the proposed increased use of sonar in the Northwest Training and Testing Area.

The Northwest Training and Testing Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement is available for public review and comment online at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-eissonar.

The Navy is accepting comments through Feb. 2.

The draft environmental impact study and supplement for the Northwest Training and Testing Study Area are separate from a controversial electronic warfare training project in the Olympic Military Operations Area for which the Navy is seeking U.S. Forest Service permits.

In January, the Navy released a draft environmental impact study of training exercises and use of sonar and explosives in the training zone that includes areas off the North Olympic Peninsula’s Pacific Coast — including the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary — off Indian Island and in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Explosives in the area also are part of the draft document, although the Navy has said that bombing exercises take place outside the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, which consists of 2,408 square nautical miles off the Olympic Peninsula coastline.

Following publication of the draft, the Navy determined that updated training requirements would result in changes to the proposed action.

This supplement presents these changes and “significant new information relevant to environmental concerns,” the Navy said.

The changes presented in the supplement include an updated requirement for increased use of sonobuoys during training in the Northwest Training Range Complex.

The supplement also addresses additional analysis related to assessing impacts of ongoing maritime security operations.

Critics have worried that sonar could harm whales and other sea mammals.

Sonobuoys are both active, meaning they emit sonar, or inactive, meaning that they only collect sounds. They collect and transmit information about the marine environment and potential threats and targets.

In the draft document released in January, the preferred alternative would increase the tempo of new buoy testing activities from 54 activities with 510 buoys, to 59 activities with 561 buoys.

All comments on the supplement must be postmarked or received online by the February deadline to be considered in the final document.

The 1,818-page draft environmental impact study, which is to support the Navy’s request for the renewal of its five-year Marine Mammal Protection Act permit, is at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Sonobuoy2.

Comments on the original draft study were accepted between Jan. 24-April 15 and will be considered in the development of the final statement, the Navy said.

The supplement can be reviewed at the following locations:

■ Jefferson County Library, 620 Cedar Ave., Port Hadlock.

■ Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St.

■ Port Townsend Library, 1220 Lawrence St.

Public meetings are planned Jan. 12 in Poulsbo, Jan. 13 in Aberdeen, Jan. 14 in Newport, Ore., and Jan. 16 in Eureka, Calif. None are planned on the North Olympic Peninsula.

The Navy gave no time line for the process, but said that it planned to adjust training and testing activities “to the level needed to support Navy requirements beginning October 2015.”

The final environmental impact statement will be released for a 30-day wait period before the Nary makes a decision and releases a record of decision.

Written comments on the supplement may be submitted via the project website, in person at a public meeting or by mail to Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest, Attn: Ms. Kimberly Kler — NWTT EIS/OEIS Project Manager, 1101 Tautog Circle, Suite 203, Silverdale, WA 98315-1101.

Last modified: December 23. 2014 7:22PM
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