Planning for military war games in the Gulf of Alaska in May of 2019 has begun by the U.S. Pacific Command and its component commands, and with it renewed concerns about potential adverse impacts of marine sea life.
Military officials have confirmed that Exercise Northern Edge 2019 is scheduled to take place next May in the air, land and maritime portions of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, which includes the Gulf of Alaska.
While declining to give exact dates, citing operational security considerations, they offered some detail on what to expect.
“Although planning is still in the early stages and participants and activities have not been determined, the exercise is expected to be similar in size to Northern Edge 2017 which comprised of approximately 6,000 military personnel, 160 aircraft and three ships,” said Air Force Capt. P. Bryant Davis Jr., director of public affairs for Alaskan NORAD Region/Alaskan Command/11th Air Force, in response to an inquiry on the exercise.
The inquiry was prompted by an announcement from the Eyak Preservation Council in Cordova that said they had learned that Northern Edge 2019 would take place in the gulf from May 13 through May 24 of next year.
The biennial military exercises are of great concern to residents of Alaska’s coastal fisheries communities, including Cordova, who fear that war games in the Gulf of Alaska during the salmon fishing season might have a negative impact on their fisheries, as well as other marine life.
The Eyak Preservation Council noted that in advance of Northern Edge 2017, last May 1-12 that nine Gulf of Alaska communities passed resolutions protesting the scale and timing of the exercises.
The council said they have learned from military sources that Northern Edge 2019 will be held in the Gulf of Alaska from May 13 to May 24 of next year, and that the initial planning conference, with participants from the Navy, Air Force and Marines, is set for July 23-27 at Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks.
“The fact that large-scale Northern Edge exercises remain authorized and may be executed in 2019 as simply unacceptable to the communities involved,” said Carol Hoover, executive director of the council.