The Department of the Navy, with the National Marine Fisheries Service as a cooperating agency, has prepared 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 environment, biological, and economic. Public comments on the Draft SEIS/SOEIS were received from two federal agencies, two State agencies, and one group of non-governmental organizations. The Final SEIS/SOEIS is now available for download. After a 30 day public comment period, the Navy selected Alternative 2, the Preferred Action Alternative, which is documented in its Record of Decision, available for download here.
As part of the environmental decision-making process, the Navy submitted an application for rulemaking and a letter of authorization under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) 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. Additionally, the Navy submitted a Biological Evaluation to initiate Section 7 consultation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In its ESA Biological Opinion, NMFS determined that the proposed action is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of threatened and endangered species under NMFS’s jurisdiction and is not likely to destroy or adversely modify designated critical habitat over the period of the proposed seven-year MMPA rule and letter of authorization, and into the reasonably foreseeable future. The Biological Opinion, which includes the Incidental Take Statement, was signed on July 30, 2019, becoming effective when the MMPA Final Rule and LOA are authorized; it is available for download here. The MMPA Final Rule and LOA are expected to be authorized in early August 2019.