As many of you know, over the past two years, the Navy has completed its first-ever Environmental Impact Statements for mid-frequency active sonar, in concert with applying for permits to allow them to do sonar training missions in Naval training ranges off most of the coastlines of the US. This training activity has been ongoing for decades, but after the infamous stranding event at a Bahama range in 2000, and legal pressure applied by NRDC and others, in the mid-2000’s the Navy initiated the process of complying with NEPA provisions that govern activities that may have harmful consequences for wildlife (an internal memo shortly after the Bahamas incident suggested the need to comply with NEPA, but formal compliance activities did not begin until after a 2004 lawsuit).
During 2009 and 2010, the Navy has filed its final EIS’s on most of its ranges, but the environmental compliance treadmill never really ceases, because their authorizations must be renewed every five years: this week, work began on the next round of EIS’s, aiming for 2014 deadlines by which the new ones must be finalized. The initial scoping phase has begun for activities along the Atlantic Coast and around Hawaii and off Southern California, including some public hearings and fall deadlines for initial comments, which will inform the first Draft EIS’s for each area. The Portland (Maine) Press Herald covers the Atlantic process (and here’s a link to the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing EIS page) and the San Jose Mercury News chimes in on Hawaii and SoCal, which generated separate EIS’s in the initial round, but will be combined this time into a Hawaii-Southern California Training and Testing EIS.