ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

Research into potential environmental impacts played a major role in the development and testing of the SURTASS LFA system. The Navy spent more than $16 million conducting scientific research (click here to learn about the Scientific Research) into the effects of low-frequency underwater sound on humans and marine animals and developing an environmental impact statement (EIS). SURTASS LFA sonar is employed in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, and Presidential Executive Order 12114 (Environmental Effects Abroad of Major Federal Actions).

Five principles guided the development of the Navy’s SURTASS LFA Sonar Environmental Impact Statement:

  • Conduct a study on the potential effects of low-frequency sound on marine life and human divers
  • Maintain scientific rigor throughout the study
  • Use an independent scientific team to review and edit the Environmental Impact Statement
  • Preserve an open process with public engagement
  • Ensure funding is available for scientific research to address critical data gaps and to furnish a meaningful and understandable document to the public

Analytical Process

  • Literature review and determination of data gaps
  • Scientific screening of marine animal species for potential sensitivity to low-frequency sound
  • Scientific research on the effects of low-frequency sound on humans underwater
  • Scientific research on the effects of low-frequency sound on marine mammals
  • Development of a method for quantifying risk to marine mammals
  • Analytical acoustic modeling of representative cases for the deployment of SURTASS LFA sonar
  • Estimation of marine mammal stocks potentially affected
  • Estimation of potential effects on fish and sea turtles stocks
  • Establishment of mitigation and monitoring to reduce potential effects to a negligible level

 


The SURTASS LFA Sonar Environmental Impact Statement was prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Presidential Executive Order 12114. Supplemental environmental analyses have been conducted as required since the initial EIS/OEIS was completed. Please refer to the Files to Download page for further information about these documents.

SURTASS LFA EIS Program

Highlights of the EIS process included:

  • July 1996: Notice of Intent to prepare the SURTASS LFA Sonar Environmental Impact Statement published in Federal Register
  • August 1996: Public scoping meetings (Los Angeles, CA; Norfolk, VA; Honolulu, HI)
  • January 1997: Public Information Meeting, Washington, DC
  • February 1997: SURTASS LFA Scientific Working Group Established
  • February 1997: Scientific Working Group Meeting #1 held to determine critical data gaps that need to be addressed to evaluate the potential effects of low frequency sound on the marine environment
  • May 1997: Public Meeting, Boston, MA
  • July 1997 to November 1998:  Diver’s Studies conducted by Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory (NSMRL) to study the effects of low-frequency underwater sound on divers
  • September 1997 to March 1998: Low Frequency Sound Scientific Research Program (LFS SRP) experiments conducted to study the potential effects of low-frequency sound on free-ranging marine mammals
  • October 1997: Scientific Research Program public review, Monterey, CA
  • November 1997: Scientific Working Group Meeting #2
  • February 1998: Scientific Research Program public review, Hawaii
  • June 1998: SURTASS LFA EIS Outreach Meeting, Washington, DC
  • June 1999: NSMRL issued interim guidance for operation of low frequency underwater sound sources in the presence of divers
  • July 1999: Draft OEIS/EIS completed with inputs from Low Frequency Sound Scientific Research Program, modeling, and diver studies
  • August 1999: SURTASS LFA EIS Outreach Meeting, Washington, DC
  • August 1999: SURTASS LFA EIS Open House, Los Angeles, CA
  • August 1999: SURTASS LFA EIS Open House, Miami, FL
  • September 1999: SURTASS LFA EIS Open House, Honolulu, HI
  • September 1999: SURTASS LFA EIS Open House, Boston, MA
  • September 1999: SURTASS LFA EIS Public Hearing, Norfolk, VA
  • October 1999: SURTASS LFA EIS Open House, Seattle, WA
  • October 1999: SURTASS LFA EIS Public Hearing, San Diego, CA
  • October 1999: SURTASS LFA EIS Public Hearing, Honolulu, HI
  • October 1999: 90-day comment period on Draft OEIS/EIS ended
  • August 2000: Completed successful testing of the High Frequency Marine Mammal Monitoring (HF/M3) Sonar
  • January 2001: Final OEIS/EIS published
  • July 16, 2002: Final Record of Decision (ROD) signed by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Environment) with notice in the Federal Register on July 23, 2002.

TOP