Navy announced change in Gulf Alaska training activities

Use of sonar, explosives are not part of the supplemental plan

An MH-60R Sea Hawk lands on the flight deck of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd while participating in Exercise Northern Edge 2019. Photo courtesy of Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ryan J. Batchelder/U.S. Navy

Navy officials have prepared a supplement to the December 2020 Gulf of Alaska Navy training plan known as Exercise Northern Edge.

The announcement on Friday, March 18, noted that since release of the Gulf of Alaska in December 2020 and completion of Exercise Northern Edge 2021, the Navy has determined that the existing training area in the Gulf of Alaska, known as the Temporary Maritime Activities Area, no longer provides sufficient space for the realistic maneuvering of vessels and aircraft during training exercises.

The supplement proposes to include more space available for maneuvering vessels and aircraft in the Gulf and the addition of a new mitigation area within the continental shelf and slope area of the TMAA.

The supplement, which is out for public comment through May 2, updates the analysis in the 2020 supplemental environmental impact statement/overseas environmental impact statement, and will be used to develop a final ES/OOEIS, officials said.

In its 2020 draft supplemental EIS/OEIS, the Navy proposes to continue periodic military training activities within the Gulf. The Navy is preparing the Supplemental EIS/OEIS to support the renewal of the federal regulatory permits and authorizations required for these activities under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act, which expire in April 2022.

Proposed changes to the study area include the addition of airspace and sea space to the west and south of the TMAA. This additional area is referred to as the Western Maneuver Area and it is approximately 185,806 square nautical miles. The TMAA, which is approximately 42,146 square nautical miles, would remain unchanged and all activities involving active sonar and explosives would still occur in this area only. 

Navy officials said they are not proposing new or increased number of training activities in the WMA, only an expansion of the area the Navy may use for vessel and aircraft maneuvering purposes during exercises. The number of vessels, aircraft, underway steaming hours, events, and flight times remain the same. The use of sonar or explosives would not occur in the WMA.

Proposed changes to the study area include the addition of airspace and sea space to the west and south of the TMAA. This additional area is referred to as the Western Maneuver Area (WMA) and it is approximately 185,806 square nautical miles. The TMAA, which is approximately 42,146 square nautical miles, would remain unchanged and all activities involving active sonar and explosives would still occur in this area only.

Navy officials said they are not proposing new or increased number of training activities in the WMA, only an expansion of the area the Navy may use for vessel and aircraft maneuvering purposes during exercises. The number of vessels, aircraft, underway steaming hours, events, and flight times remain the same. The use of sonar or explosives would not occur in the WMA.

Visit the project website at GOAEIS.com to download the supplement, view project information, and submit substantive comments online. Comments may also be submitted by mail to: Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Northwest, Attention: GOA Supplemental EIS/OEIS Project Manager, 1101 Tautog Circle, Suite 203, Silverdale, WA 98315-1101.