Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS) Low Frequency Active (LFA) Sonar is a long range surveillance sonar the U.S. Navy requires for national security.
The Department of the Navy, with the National Marine Fisheries Service as a cooperating agency, is preparing a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement/Supplemental Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS/SOEIS) for SURTASS LFA sonar in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and Executive Order 12114. The SEIS/SOEIS evaluates the potential environmental impacts associated with two action alternatives and a No-Action Alternative to the following resource areas: air quality, marine water resources, biological resources, and economic resources. The Final SEIS/SOEIS is expected to be released to the public in the summer of 2019.
As part of the environmental decision-making process, the Navy has submitted an application for rulemaking and a letter of authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to take marine mammals incidental to the use of SURTASS LFA sonar for training and testing activities in the western and central North Pacific and eastern Indian oceans. NMFS is requesting comments on its proposal to issue regulations to govern the incidental taking of marine mammals by Level B harassment from August 2019 through August 2026. The comment period ends on April 1, 2019.
Comments may be submitted on the Proposed Rule, identified by NOAA-NMFS-2019-0014, through April 1, 2019, by any of the following methods:
- Electronic submission: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Go to www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2019-0014, click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
- Mail: Submit written comments to Jolie Harrison, Chief, Permits and Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
Two documents accompany the Proposed Rule:
- Potential Marine Mammal Offshore Biologically Important Areas for SURTASS LFA Sonar: Marine Areas under Consideration
- Harbor Porpoise Desktop Study
On August 10th, 2017, the Deputy Secretary of Defense invoked a National Defense Exemption (NDE), as he is authorized to do under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), for continued SURTASS LFA sonar testing, training and operations. The Navy developed and employs SURTASS LFA sonar to meet the need for detecting quiet submarines at long range, and the system is critical to the national defense. The current MMPA “Final Rule” for SURTASS LFA sonar activities expires on August 14, 2017. The NDE will run for two years, or until a new Final Rule is issued, whichever comes first. The NDE will provide additional time for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and Navy to consider and address issues raised in the rulemaking process. During the exemption period, the Navy will continue to comply with all mitigation and monitoring measures that were included in the proposed MMPA rule plus additional mitigation measures the Navy agreed to after its publication. NMFS issued a biological opinion for the SURTASS LFA sonar activities on August 11, 2017. Download NDE here.
Please see the Frequently Asked Questions page where answers to some commonly asked questions on the NDE are addressed. Additional questions should be directed to the Navy News Desk, (703) 697-5342.
- Federal Register publication of NMFS’s Proposed Rule (comment period ends on April 1, 2019)
- The Navy’s 2018 Application for Rulemaking and a Letter of Authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) published the notice of availability of the SURTASS LFA Draft SEIS/SOEIS on September 7, 2018 (83 FR 174: 45442) (EIS No. 20180203).
- The Navy’s 2018 Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement/Supplemental Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS/SOEIS) for Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active (SURTASS LFA) Sonar.
- The 2017 National Defense Exemption (NDE) for continued SURTASS LFA sonar testing, training and operations.
- The Navy’s Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement/Supplemental Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS/SOEIS) for Employment of Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active (SURTASS LFA) Sonar was published in the Federal Register (79 FR 37295) on June 5, 2015.
- The Navy’s January 2015 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement/Supplemental Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS/SOEIS) for Employment of Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active (SURTASS LFA) Sonar.