The Navy recently released the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement for exercises conducted in the Hawai‘i Range Complex.
The complex includes the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the Westside and more than 235,000 nautical miles of ocean surrounding Hawai‘i.
The Final EIS/OEIS focuses on the environmental effects of sonar use and increased levels of Navy training in Hawai‘i, along with research, development, testing and evaluation activities.
The public has until June 9 to comment on the Final EIS/OEIS on the Hawai‘i Range Complex.
“The Hawai‘i Range Complex EIS/OEIS represents the Navy’s efforts to analyze each range complex, starting with Hawai‘i,” Tom Clements, PMRF public affairs officer, said. “The Hawai‘i Range Complex Final EIS involved several years of work that included scoping meetings and two rounds of public hearings on each of the four principal Hawaiian Islands.”
The EIS process is required as a part of the Navy’s plans to conduct current and emerging training and testing in the complex and upgrade its capabilities to defend against existing and future threats.
A supplement was added to last summer’s draft EIS/OEIS to address new studies on sonar use in Hawai‘i waters.
The supplement spotlighted three areas: The methods used to evaluate the effects of mid-frequency active sonar on marine mammals, the amount and types of sonar allocated to each alternative, and a new alternative for the Navy’s practices in the area.
Clements said these changes and public comments on the supplement were incorporated in the Final EIS/OEIS.
Of the four alternatives explored in the EIS, the Navy preferred an alternative that would “provide increased flexibility in training activities by increasing the tempo and frequency of training events, future and enhanced research, development, testing and evaluation activities.”
Under the Navy’s preferred alternative, sonar use would stay at the current levels.
According to the Final EIS, “This alternative would allow the Navy to meet its non-antisubmarine training and research, development, testing and evaluation mission objectives and avoid increases in potential effects to marine mammals above historic levels of antisubmarine warfare training in the Hawai‘i Range Complex.”
Comments related to impacts on biological resources comprised anywhere from two to 23 percent of total comments received, Clements said. The range of comments came from scoping, draft or supplement comment periods.
The use of sonar in Navy exercises has been the target of lawsuits in California and Hawai‘i.
In March, federal Judge David Ezra said that the Navy could not continue with its undersea warfare exercises in Hawaiian waters without following additional mitigation measures to protect marine mammals.
As a result of the ruling, the Navy is required to prepare an EIS to examine the impacts of high-intensity, mid-frequency sonar.
A copy of the Final EIS/OEIS is available online at govsupport.us/navynepahawaii/hawaiirceis.aspx
According to Clements, the Navy will issue a decision after June 9.
Comments for the Final EIS/OEIS may be submitted until June 8 and should be mailed to: Pacific Missile Range Facility, Public Affairs Officer, Attn: HRC EIS/OEIS, P.O. Box 128, Kekaha, 96752-0128. Comments may also be faxed to 335-4520 or submitted via e-mail at email@example.com
• Rachel Gehrlein, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or firstname.lastname@example.org