U.S. Navy officials have released a final document on plans for 2023 training exercises in the Gulf of Alaska, with a final decision on which action alternative to implement coming a minimum of 30 days after publication of the final supplemental document.
The final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (EIS/OEIS) is available for review at www.GOAEIS.com.
The document includes consideration of a number of comments made during public comment periods in 2020 and 2021. While no additional public comment periods are now anticipated, new and different comments from those previously submitted would still be considered, according to Julianne Stanford, environmental public affairs specialist with the Navy Region Northwest.
The 30-day wait period ending on Oct. 3 allows for review of the final EIS/OEIS, changes to the analysis and responses to comments submitted on the draft SEIS/OEIS and supplement to the draft SEIS/OEIS.
Opponents of the exercises have voiced concerns in the past potential adverse impact of use of sonar and weapons systems on fish and other marine life during times when salmon in particular are migrating in the Gulf of Alaska in the weeks before the start of the famed Copper River salmon fisheries. While authorized for use during these exercises not all sonar or weapons systems are required for use during every exercise, but the Navy must conservatively address all equipment that could potentially be used in its analysis, Stanford said,
“Active sonar systems included in the Supplemental EIS/OEIS are primarily sonars deployed from either ships or aircraft for the purpose of detecting and locating hostile submarines,” she said. “Other sonar systems included may be used to locate other underwater objects, such as mines, or as a measure to protect ships from enemy torpedoes.”
“Live explosives may be used in certain areas if training requirements dictate, but no use of underwater explosives is proposed,” she added.
Changes to the document reflect the Navy’s consideration of all substantive comments received at public scoping in 2020 and public comment periods in 2021 and 2022, as well as information received during ongoing regulatory consultation processes, she explained.
Further questions and comments regarding these military exercises can be submitted in writing to Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Northwest, Attention: GOA Supplemental EIS/OEIS Project Manager, 1101 Tautog Circle, Suite 203, Silverdale, WA 98315-1101.