Frequently asked questions are provided for additional project information.

1. Why is the Navy preparing a Supplemental EIS/OEIS?

  • The Navy is preparing the MITT Supplemental EIS/OEIS to:
    • Update the Mariana Islands Training and Testing Final EIS/OEIS (referred to as the “2015 Final EIS/OEIS”), which was completed with community input in July 2015.
    • Support ongoing and future activities conducted at sea and on FDM within the Study Area beyond 2020.
    • Incorporate new information from an updated acoustic effects model, updated marine mammal density data, and evolving and emergent best available science.
    • Support the issuance of federal regulatory permits and authorizations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.
    • Update at-sea training and testing activities based on evolving requirements.
    • Assess the potential environmental impacts associated with ongoing training and testing activities conducted within the MITT EIS/OEIS Study Area (hereafter referred to as the “Study Area”). 

2. Why is the Navy preparing a Supplemental EIS/OEIS instead of a new EIS/OEIS?

Proposed at-sea training and testing activities within the Study Area are generally consistent with those analyzed in the 2015 Final EIS/OEIS and are similar to activities that have been occurring in the Study Area for decades.

Because the Proposed Action is to continue ongoing military readiness activities, a supplement to the 2015 Final EIS/OEIS was deemed the most appropriate for complying with the National Environmental Policy Act.

The Navy needs to re-analyze at-sea training and testing activities in the Study Area beyond 2020 and document the findings to obtain authorizations and permits as required under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.

3. What are the key updates to the 2015 Final EIS/OEIS resulting in the need for a supplemental EIS/OEIS?

Key updates made in the 2019 Draft Supplemental EIS/OEIS:

  • Includes a No Action Alternative in which Marine Mammal Protection Act authorization would not be issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (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 underwater sound.
  • Includes analyses of training with new vessels, aircraft, weapons systems, and unmanned/autonomous systems, and decreases in other activities.
  • Includes analyses of testing new systems and technologies, such as radar, communication systems (or simulators), or high-energy lasers.
  • Includes an updated underwater sound effects model, criteria and thresholds, and marine mammal and sea turtle data.
  • Continues to use the most current and best available science and analytical methods.
  • Reviews procedural mitigation measures and considers geographic mitigation measures.

4. Why is the Proposed Action needed?

The Proposed Action is needed to meet military readiness requirements. At-sea training and testing must be diverse and as realistic as possible to fully prepare military personnel for what they will experience in real-world situations and ensure their success and survival.

5. Why does the military need to train and test in the Mariana Islands?

  • The Study Area is strategically significant for accomplishing the military mission. For decades, the Mariana Islands have provided an ideal location in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region for the military to maintain a global and strategic presence.
  • The Study Area plays a vital role in the execution of the naval readiness mandate. It has unique attributes, including location, proximity to concentrations of U.S. forces, environment, and size, which make it an ideal venue for training military personnel and testing equipment and systems. 

6. Can’t you use simulators for training and testing?

  • When possible, military personnel use simulators and other advanced technologies when training and testing, and recent advancements and improvements in simulator technology has led to an increase in usage. Simulation, however, can only work at the basic operator level and cannot completely replace training and testing in a live environment.
  • Despite advancements and improvements to simulator technology, there are still limits to the realism technology can provide.
    • Simulation cannot provide the real-world accuracy and level of training needed to prepare naval forces for deployment
    • Simulation cannot replicate a high-stress environment nor the complexity in coordinating with other military personnel
    • Simulation cannot replicate dynamic environments involving numerous military forces and cannot accurately model sound in complex training environments

7. Will the Navy use sonar in the Study Area?

Yes. The Navy proposes to continue training and testing activities, which include the use of active sonar within the Study Area, while employing mitigation measures. The Navy reanalyzed the potential environmental effects of sonar use in the Supplemental EIS/OEIS.

8. Why is at-sea training and testing with explosives necessary?

  • Training and testing at sea with explosives significantly enhances the safety of U.S. forces in combat and improves readiness and equipment reliability.
  • Training in a high-stress environment, including the use of and exposure to explosive ordnance, is necessary for military personnel to be fully prepared to respond to emergencies and national security threats, and to ensure their own safety.
  • Training and testing at sea with in-water explosives is limited, occurs only in established operating areas, and only after the Navy issues notices to mariners and pilots to ensure public safety. 

9. What resources are analyzed in the Supplemental EIS/OEIS?

In preparing the Supplemental EIS/OEIS, the Navy evaluated each resource area discussed in the 2015 MITT Final EIS/OEIS to determine if reanalysis was necessary due to new information or new analysis methods. The Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS presents the updated analysis for the potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on 13 environmental resource areas:

  • Physical Resources:
    • Sediments and water quality
    • Air quality
  • Biological Resources:
    • Marine vegetation
    • Marine invertebrates
    • Marine habitats
    • Fishes
    • Marine mammals
    • Sea turtles
    • Marine birds
    • Terrestrial Species on FDM
  • Human Resources:
    • Cultural
    • Socioeconomic
    • Public health and safety

10. What measures are implemented to protect marine life?

Avoiding impacts from at-sea training and testing on the marine environment is an important goal for the military. In its commitment to environmental protection, and in compliance with existing laws, permits, and authorizations, the military follows strict guidelines and employs protective measures to reduce effects on marine species while at-sea training and testing. 

11. Would the military limit public access to certain at-sea areas?

  • Military personnel share the ocean and coastal areas with the community and recognize the importance of public access. The military strives to be a good neighbor by minimizing access restrictions and limiting the extent and duration of closures of public areas whenever possible while ensuring safety at all times.
  • Some temporary restrictions must occur when appropriate to ensure public safety. When certain at-sea training and testing activities are scheduled, notices to mariners are published for public awareness and safety, helping the public plan accordingly to avoid temporarily restricted areas. The Coast Guard publishes and broadcasts notices to mariners with location, activity, and during information. Mariners are requested to read and adhere to the published notices.

12. Will public fishing areas be closed more frequently?

  • It is not the military’s intent to further restrict public access because of proposed activities; however, the safety of military personnel and the public is of utmost importance. For the public’s safety, public access to some sea areas during certain training and testing activities may be temporarily limited. With the exception of exclusive use or restricted areas, the public has access during periods when not in use by the military.
  • The Navy determines the hazard for each activity and notifies the public at least 72 hours in advance of a requirement for a temporary closure of waters or airspace to ensure public safety. The Supplemental EIS/OEIS will analyze proposed activity increases and corresponding potential increase in temporary closures for public safety.
  • When areas are scheduled for military use, the Navy coordinates with the Coast Guard and Federal Aviation Administration to publish notices of temporary closures to help the public plan accordingly and avoid temporarily restricted areas. Appropriate local agencies are notified.

13. How does the military ensure its training and testing activities do not cause safety issues?

  • Because dangerous military activities are conducted on FDM (an active military training area), restrictions have been established. Restricted areas are intended to keep airmen, fishermen, and other people safe. However, when FDM is not in use by the military, civilian vessels have access up to the 3-nautical mile radius around the island.
  • The safety of the public and military personnel is of utmost importance. The military observes every precaution when planning and conducting training and testing activities. Some precautionary measures include:
    • Ensuring impact areas and targets are unpopulated prior to potentially dangerous activities.
    • Canceling or delaying activities if public or personnel safety is a concern.
    • Notifying the public of the location, date, and time of potentially dangerous activities.
    • Implementing temporary access restrictions to training and testing areas.
    • Conducting thorough environmental and safety reviews for all test systems before tests are conducted on range sites.
  • The Coast Guard publishes and broadcasts notices to mariners with location, activity, and duration information. Mariners are requested to read and adhere to the published notices.

14. Who decides whether or not to implement the Proposed Action?

  • The Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Energy, Installations, and Environment) is the decision-maker regarding the selection and implementation of an alternative. The decision is based on many factors, including the details of the environmental analyses, breadth of public comment, recommendations from military commands, and mission requirements.

15. Who will provide independent oversight of the Navy’s environmental analysis?

  • The Navy requests and actively solicits feedback and comments from the public, government agencies, elected officials, and nongovernmental organizations. Substantive public comments will be considered and incorporated into the Supplemental EIS/OEIS, as applicable.

16. Will my input actually have any impact on this process?

  • Yes. The purpose of the public involvement process is to provide information to and solicit comments from the public about the Proposed Action, alternatives considered, and the results of the draft environmental analysis. The Navy welcomes and appreciates your substantive comments.
  • All substantive comments received during the public comment period will be reviewed and considered in the preparation of the Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS.

17. When will a final decision be made?

  • A Record of Decision is expected in summer 2020. Please know that the date may change.