Frequently asked questions are provided for additional project information.

1. Why is the Navy preparing a Supplemental EIS/OEIS?

  • The Navy is preparing the Supplemental EIS/OEIS to:
    • Update the environmental analyses of military readiness activities contained in the Northwest Training and Testing Final EIS/OEIS (referred to as the 2015 Final EIS/OEIS), which was completed with community input in October 2015 and for which a Record of Decision was signed in October 2016.
    • Adjust training and testing activities from current levels to the level needed to support Navy requirements beyond 2020.
    • Update environmental analyses from the 2015 Final EIS/OEIS 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.
  • The 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 the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS.

2. Why is the Navy preparing a Supplemental EIS/OEIS instead of a new EIS/OEIS?

  • The Navy’s proposed training and testing activities within the Study Area are generally consistent with those analyzed in the previous EIS/OEIS and approved in the 2016 Record of Decision, and are representative of activities the Navy has been conducting in the Study Area for decades. Because the Proposed Action is to continue ongoing and future military readiness activities, a supplement to the 2015 Final EIS/OEIS was deemed to be the most appropriate environmental process for complying with the National Environmental Policy Act.
  • The Navy needs to re-analyze training and testing activities in the Study Area beyond 2020 and document the findings to obtain authorizations and permits as required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.
    • The Navy will request a Letter of Authorization from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for the unintentional take of marine mammals incidental to the at-sea training and testing activities conducted in the Study Area. The Letter of Authorization is typically valid for five years.
    • The Navy will prepare a Biological Evaluation for Endangered Species Act-listed species or their critical habitat that the Proposed Action may affect. NMFS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will use the Biological Evaluation as the basis for preparing a Biological Opinion on the Proposed Action. The Biological Opinion will identify agreed upon minimization measures for the Proposed Action after consultation between the NMFS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Navy.

3. What are the key updates to the previous EIS/OEIS resulting in the need for a supplemental EIS/OEIS?

  • In the Supplemental EIS/OEIS, the Navy will:
    • Include a No Action Alternative in which proposed training and testing activities would not be conducted and Marine Mammal Protection Act authorization would not be issued by NMFS.
    • Include analyses of increases in testing of some new vessels and weapons systems, and decreases in other testing activities.
    • Include analyses of both increases and decreases in the annual occurrence of certain activities.
    • Recategorize or rename some testing activities to be consistent with Navy testing activity categories.
    • Include improved acoustic models, updated marine mammal and sea turtle densities, and updated marine species criteria and thresholds based on NMFS’s 2016 guidance.
    • Update the environmental analysis using current best available science and analytical methods.
    • Review procedural mitigations, where appropriate, and consider geographic mitigation, where applicable.

4. 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.

5. Where does the Navy train and conduct tests within the Study Area?

  • Navy training and testing activities occur at sea in the northeastern Pacific Ocean and in associated airspace within the Study Area. The Study Area remains unchanged since the 2015 Final EIS/OEIS. The Study Area includes:
    • Four existing range complexes and facilities:
      • Northwest Training Range Complex
      • Naval Undersea Warfare Center Keyport Range Complex
      • Carr Inlet Operations Area
      • Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility
    • Established maritime operating areas and warning areas in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, including areas within the:
      • Strait of Juan de Fuca
      • Puget Sound
      • Western Behm Canal in southeastern Alaska 
    • Air and water space within and outside Washington state waters
    • Air and water space outside state waters of Oregon and Northern California
    • Navy pierside locations 

6. Why does the Navy need to train and conduct tests in the Pacific Northwest?

  • The Pacific Northwest is a critical training and testing area for the Navy. Areas in the Pacific Northwest have historically been used by the Navy for training and testing activities, with some activities dating back to 1914. Navy training and testing areas within the Study Area have provided a safe and realistic environment for training Sailors and testing systems. The proximity of these areas to naval homeports allows for:
    • Greater efficiencies during training and testing
    • Shorter transit times
    • Reduced fuel use, cost, and emissions
    • Reduced wear and tear on vessels, submarines, and aircraft
    • Maximizing Sailors’ training time and reducing time away from their families
  • The Study Area provides a range of realistic training and testing environments and sufficient air and sea space necessary for safety, mission success, and to ensure Sailors are equipped and ready to respond. 

7. Are current naval at-sea training and testing activities covered by an EIS/OEIS?

  • Yes. Navy at-sea training and testing activities occurring in the Study Area from 2015 to 2020 and beyond were analyzed in the 2015 Final EIS/OEIS and implemented with the Record of Decision. In addition, federal regulatory permits and authorizations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act were issued; however, they expire in 2020.
  • The environmental review process included:
    • Phase I: 2010 Northwest Training Range Complex EIS/OEIS.
    • Phase II: Northwest Training and Testing EIS/OEIS, completed with public input in 2016.
      • Three EIS/OEIS documents were consolidated: 2010 Northwest Training Range Complex EIS/OEIS; 2010 Naval Sea Systems Command Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division, Keyport Range Complex Extension Final EIS/OEIS; and the 1988 Naval Surface Warfare Center Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility Final EIS.
      • The Navy re-evaluated impacts from ongoing at-sea training and testing activities and updated at-sea training and testing activities occurring in the Study Area from 2015 to 2020 and beyond, based on changing requirements.
    • Phase III (Current Phase): The Navy is now analyzing training and testing activities that would be conducted in the Study Area beyond 2020.

8. 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. 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.
  • 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

9. 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 the Pacific Northwest is 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

10. Will the Navy use sonar in the Study Area?

  • Yes. The 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 EIS/OEIS.

11. Doesn’t sonar kill marine mammals?

  • Based on extensive analysis in the 2015 Final EIS/OEIS, no marine mammal mortalities were predicted to result from sonar use or from any other training or testing activities in the Study Area. Additionally, NMFS did not authorize mortality of any marine mammals associated with the Navy’s activities in the Study Area. The most likely impacts on marine mammals from sonar based on modeling results are short-term, temporary, and non-cumulative behavioral responses. The Navy takes precautions when using sonar, works with NMFS to ensure that activities comply with applicable laws, and strives to reduce risk to marine species.

12. Why is at-sea 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 at-sea training and testing in a live environment.
  • Testing with explosive ordnance is essential for ensuring 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 at sea 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. 

13. What resources will be reanalyzed as part of the Supplemental EIS/OEIS?

  • The Navy will analyze the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on the following environmental resource areas:
    • Physical Resources:
      • Air quality
      • Sediments and water quality
    • Biological Resources
      • Vegetation
      • Invertebrates
      • Habitats
      • Fishes
      • Marine mammals
      • Reptiles
      • Birds
    • Human Resources:
      • Cultural
      • Socioeconomic
      • Public health and safety

14. Will the 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.

15. What measures are implemented to protect marine life?

  • All Navy units are required to follow the same standard operating procedures for at-sea sonar training and testing activities as those analyzed in the Northwest Training and Testing Phase II EIS/OEIS, in addition to any particular event mitigation measures.
  • All units conducting such training and testing at sea use the Protective Measures Assessment Protocol, 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 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

16. Would the 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.

17. How does the 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.  

18. 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.

19. Who will provide independent oversight of the 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.

20. 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.

21. Are public meetings being held for the project?

  • Public involvement is an important part of the National Environmental Policy Act process, and there are a number of opportunities for the public to participate throughout the development of the Supplemental EIS/OEIS. Public meetings are planned to occur following the release of the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS in early 2019.

22. How can my concerns be heard?

  • The public 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.
    • The Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS is anticipated to be released in early 2019 for a public review and comment period. Public meetings will be held after the release of the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS, and public comments will be accepted.

23. When will the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS be ready?

  • Conducting a thorough analysis generally takes about a year and a half following the scoping phase. The Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS is expected in early 2019. The Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS is expected in summer of 2020 and the Record of Decision is expected in fall of 2020; however, release dates may change. The Navy’s focus is to ensure accurate and complete information and data, including your comments, are collected and appropriately analyzed. 

24. What are the next steps?

  • The Navy will consider all substantive public comments received during the scoping period. Scientists, including biologists (marine mammal specialists), botanists, ecologists, and other specialists, will review substantive comments for consideration in the preparation of the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS.
  • The Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS is anticipated to be released in early 2019 for a public review and comment period. Public meetings will be held after the release of the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS.
  • The Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS will include revisions to the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS and responses to substantive comments received during the Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS comment period. The Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS will be released for a 30-day wait period. The Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS is expected in summer 2020.

25. When will a final decision be made?

  • The Record of Decision is expected in fall 2020. Please know that the release date may change. The Navy’s focus is to ensure that accurate and complete information and data, including substantive public comments, are collected and appropriately analyzed.