Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) are provided for additional project information.

1. Why is the Navy preparing an EIS/OEIS?

Proposed Action:
  • Conduct military training and testing activities in the Hawaii-Southern California Training and Testing (HSTT) Study Area

Purpose and Need (Navy):
  • Purpose and need for the Navy's Proposed Action is to maintain, train and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas, consistent with Title 10 Section 5062 of the United States Code.
Purpose and Need (NMFS):
  • The purpose of NMFS’s proposed action is to prescribe the "means of effecting the least practicable adverse impact" on the affected species or stocks and their habitat, and on the availability of those species or stocks for subsistence uses, as well as monitoring and reporting requirements.
  • The need for NMFS's action is to consider the impacts of the Navy's activities on marine mammals and ultimately allow the Navy to conduct its activities in compliance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), if the requirements of section 101(a)(5)(A) are satisfied.

2. What are the proposed alternatives?

No Action Alternative
  • Proposed training and testing activities in the Study Area would not be conducted
  • NMFS would deny incidental take authorization
Alternative 1 (Preferred Alternative)
  • Analyzes representative (not maximum) year of training and testing to account for natural fluctuations of training cycles & deployment schedules
  • Assumes some unit-level training is conducted through simulators and in conjunction with other training
Alternative 2
  • Assumes maximum number of training and testing activities would occur every year over any 5-year period
  • Provides greatest capacity for the Navy to increase live, at-sea training requirements 
  • Provides for higher levels of annual testing of certain anti-submarine warfare and mine warfare systems to support expedited delivery of these systems to the fleet
Both Action Alternatives: 
  • Cover military readiness training and testing requirements into the reasonably foreseeable future
  • Adjustments/refinements to activities, but overall same stressors, activity types, and locations
  • Account for training associated with force structure changes (homeporting/homebasing) and training and testing with new systems that will be introduced to the fleets

3. Where does the Navy train and conduct tests within the Study Area?

  • Navy training and testing activities occur in the Pacific Ocean. The Study Area includes:
    • At-sea areas off the coasts of Hawaii and Southern California
    • Areas on the high seas between the Navy’s Hawaii and Southern California range complexes where training and testing may occur during vessel transit 
    • A Temporary Operating Area north and west of the Hawaii Operating Area
    • Select Navy pierside and harbor locations
  • Land components associated with these areas are not included in the Study Area and no activities on these land areas are included as part of the Proposed Action

4. What are the key differences between the 2017 Draft EIS/OEIS and the 2018 Final EIS/OEIS?

  • Refined Purpose and Need to more fully account for NMFS requirements
  • Decrease in mine neutralization training
  • Updated analysis in response to recent changes to the best available science in all sections, including updated analysis on main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale and Hawaiian monk seal critical habitat
  • Incorporated changes resulting from new science, public outreach, comments on the DEIS and regulatory consultation. Key changes include: 
    • New section added on Native Hawaiian cultural practices 
    • New mitigation measures added
    • Updated analysis of considered but eliminated geographic alternatives
    • Updated analysis on critical habitat

5. What are the key differences between the 2018 Final EIS/OEIS and 2013 Final EIS/OEIS?

Training and testing activities proposed in the 2018 Final EIS/OEIS are generally consistent with those activities analyzed in the 2013 Final EIS/OEIS and earlier environmental planning documents. In the 2018 Final EIS/OEIS, the Navy: 

  • Includes a No Action Alternative in which MMPA authorization would not be issued by NMFS; therefore, proposed training and testing activities would not be conducted 
  • Refines the analysis of anti-submarine warfare activities, resulting in reduced levels of active SONAR and fewer hours of sources of underwater sound
  • Reduces the number of sinking exercises 
  • Includes analyses of increases in training for maritime security operations, such as drug interdiction and anti-piracy operations
  • Includes analyses of increases in testing of some new vessels, aircraft, weapons systems, and unmanned vehicles, and decreases in other testing activities
  • Includes improved acoustic models, updated marine mammal and sea turtle densities, and updated marine species criteria and thresholds
  • Continues to use the most current and best available science and analytical methods 
  • Reviews procedural mitigations, where appropriate, and considers additional geographic and/or temporal mitigations, where applicable

6. How many comments were received on the Draft EIS/OEIS and what were the key concerns?

  • Over 2,000 comments received
  • Key concerns included:
    • Expand range of reasonable alternatives and cumulative impacts
    • Restrict the use of surface ship hull-mounted mid-frequency active SONAR
    • Increase mitigation and monitoring for specific areas/species (e.g., retain all mitigations from the 2015 settlement agreement)
    • Modify procedural mitigations (e.g., speed restrictions)
    • Adjust modeling methodology (e.g., impact criteria/thresholds) for acoustics and explosives
    • Consider/fund additional scientific research
  • A summary of comments received and corresponding responses can be found in Appendix H of the Final EIS/OEIS

7. How will marine mammals be impacted by proposed activities?

  • Minimizing impacts on the marine environment is important to the Navy. The Navy’s use of SONAR and explosives may affect certain marine species. Based on current research, monitoring, and modeling data, the analysis indicates that the majority of effects on marine mammals would be behavioral responses (i.e., movement in another direction or a minor change in behavior). The Navy will implement mitigation and monitoring measures to avoid or minimize effects on marine species.
  • No significant or population level impacts identified

8. What are the proposed mitigation measures?

  • The Navy will implement procedural, temporal and geographic mitigation measures, developed in coordination with NMFS, as protective measures to minimize impacts
  • Procedural Mitigation
    • Posting qualified Lookouts – to observe for specific biological resources within a mitigation zone
    • Establishing mitigation zones - areas at the surface of the water within which applicable training or testing activities will be ceased, powered down, or modified to protect specific biological resources from an auditory injury (permanent threshold shift [PTS]), non-auditory injury (from impulsive sources), or direct strike (e.g., vessel strike)
    • Strike avoidance
    • Pre-, during-, and post-event observation requirements for most explosive events
  • Geographic Mitigation: Geographic locations within the Study Area where the Navy will implement mitigation measures (limit the use of active SONAR or restrict the use of explosives) to avoid or reduce potential impacts on marine mammals.
    • Mitigation Areas include:
      • Hawaii Islands (year round)
      • Humpback Whale Special Reporting Areas (Dec 15 - Apr 15)
      • San Diego Arc, San Nicolas Island, and Santa Monica/Long Beach (Jun 1 – Oct 31)
      • Santa Barbara Island (year round) portion of Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

9. What are the new mitigation measures added to the Final EIS/OEIS?

In response to new science, comments on the Draft EIS/OEIS and regulatory consultation, the following new mitigation measures are added:

  • Refined the geographic mitigation requirements in the Hawaii Range Complex and Southern California portion of the HSTT Study Area
  • Added a requirement to survey for marine mammals and ESA-listed species after the completion of explosive activities in the vicinity where detonations occurred (when practical)
  • Requires additional platforms already participating in explosive activities to support observing for applicable biological resources before, during, and after the activity

10. Why didn't the Navy carry forward all of the mitigation from the 2015 Settlement Agreement with California Coastal Commission and Natural Resources Defense Council?

The terms of the settlement agreement were temporary in nature and expire in December 2018. The Navy carefully reviewed all of the biologically important areas within the Study Area and conducted a scientifically based assessment to determine the most effective protection to the marine species that still allowed the Navy to meet its purpose and need. The results of this assessment were used to develop the temporal, geographic and procedural mitigation measures that will be implemented.

11. What are the regulatory consultations conducted?

The Navy consulted with multiple regulatory agencies regarding all applicable environmental laws and regulations including but not limited to Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA). See Chapter 6 of the Final EIS/OEIS for more detail on Regulatory Considerations.

12. When will a final decision be made?

The Record of Decision was released in December 2018.