Monday, August 3, 2009

US Navy Announces Decision on Undersea Warfare Training Range in Jacksonville Area

News in Balance
News from the U.S. Navy.

News in Balance:

WASHINGTON, Aug 3, 2009 -- The Department of the Navy has formally decided that it will locate an undersea warfare training range (USWTR) in the Jacksonville Operating Area.

BJ Penn, assistant secretary of the Navy for installations and environment, has signed the record of decision (ROD), which follows consultation with federal regulators and the completion of an overseas environmental impact statement/environmental impact statement (OEIS/EIS) in June.

While the Navy's OEIS/EIS thoroughly analyzed both installation and use of the USWTR for training, the Navy has decided to implement only a portion of the proposed action, installation of the USWTR. Because use of the USWTR for training is not anticipated to occur until at least 2014 due to its construction, the department will update the analysis contained in the OEIS/EIS and its consultations with federal agencies during that period, and decisions regarding the use of the USWTR will be conducted closer in time to the date when training will begin.

Installation consists of the range's planning, design and construction. When completed, the USWTR will cover an approximately 500-square-nautical mile area within the waterspace commonly referred as the Jacksonville OPAREA, where a variety of Navy training already occurs. The USWTR location is well outside the areas designated as critical habitat for the North Atlantic right whale.

The USWTR's instrumentation will gather real-time data that will allow the Navy to analyze and improve their anti-submarine warfare training scenarios, tactics and procedures. The range's location will provide ships, submarines and aircraft with a realistic and challenging littoral training environment that mirrors the areas in which the Navy finds itself increasingly operating.

"The Department of the Navy is committed to protecting the ocean while maintaining readiness in this critical mission area," explained Donald Schregardus, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for environment. "Today's decision satisfies both of these vitally important objectives."

The department's decision conforms to the process outlined in the National Environmental Protection Act and Executive Order 12114, which requires analysis of the environmental consequences of federal actions such as the USWTR construction. Throughout the USWTR environmental impact analysis, Navy planners and scientists worked closely with federal regulators from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

(Report from a U.S. Navy news release.)

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