Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement for Navy Atlantic Fleet Training in the Gulf of Mexico Range Complex and To Announce Public Scoping Meetings
Pursuant to section 102(2)(c) of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as implemented by the Council on Environmental Quality regulations (40 CFR parts 1500-1508), and Executive Order 12114 (Environmental Effects Abroad of Major Federal Actions), the Department of the Navy (Navy) announces its intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (EIS/OEIS) to evaluate the potential environmental effects associated with naval training in the Gulf of Mexico (GOMEX) Range Complex. The Navy proposes to support current and emerging training operations and Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation (RDT&E) activities at the GOMEX Range Complex by: (1) Maintaining baseline training and RDT&E operations at current levels; (2) increasing training and RDT&E operations from current levels as necessary to support the Fleet Readiness Training Plan (FRTP); (3) accommodating mission requirements associated with force structure changes, including those resulting from the introduction of new platforms (vessels, aircraft and weapons systems); and (4) implementing enhanced range complex capabilities. The EIS/OEIS study area is the GOMEX Range Complex, which encompasses portions of the Gulf, as well as portions of the southeastern states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The GOMEX Range Complex consists of targets and instrumented areas, airspace, surface and subsurface operations areas (OPAREAs), and land range facilities. Together the GOMEX Range Complex encompasses: 15 square nautical miles (nm\2\) of land area; 43,390 nm\2\ of special use airspace (SUA); 17,520 nm\2\ of off-shore surface and subsurface OPAREA; and 12,072 nm\2\ of shallow ocean area less than 100 fathoms (600 feet). The scope of actions to be analyzed in this EIS/OEIS includes current and proposed future Navy training and RDT&E activities within Navy-controlled operating areas, airspace, and ranges. It also includes proposed Navy-funded range capabilities enhancements, including infrastructure improvements supporting range complex training and RDT&E activities. Training activities involving use of active sonar are conducted in the GOMEX Range Complex; however, those potential effects are being analyzed in detail in a separate document, the Atlantic Fleet Active Sonar Training (AFAST) EIS/OEIS. This separate sonar EIS/OEIS addresses active sonar use as a whole by the Atlantic Fleet in the western Atlantic Ocean and in the Gulf of Mexico. The analysis of the AFAST EIS/OEIS will be incorporated into the GOMEX Range Complex EIS/ OEIS to account for active sonar effects that could occur within the geographic area of the GOMEX Range Complex.