The Navy shares its training environments with the wildlife, plants and animals that rely on the land (San Clemente Island) and ocean ecosystems of the SOCAL Range Complex. Understanding these complex environments and taking the necessary precautions to minimize effects of Navy training activities on these resources are Navy priorities.
Putting the Latest Science and Technology to Practical Use
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process allowed the Navy an opportunity to review and assess its operations, ensuring that the benefits of recent scientific and technological advances are applied toward minimizing environmental effects. As part of this process, scientists will continue to compile and analyze currently available data and research with a focus on understanding species distribution, abundance, and movement patterns with respect to the Navy’s proposed actions.
Examples of Scientific Data and Research Include:
- Integrated Natural/Cultural Resources Management Plans: Comprehensive and integrated management plans for land-based natural/cultural resources protection.
- Marine Resource Assessments: Comprehensive reviews of protected species sighting, stranding, and survey data, as well as peer-reviewed literature and National Marine Fisheries Service reports, including stock assessments and recovery plans.
- Density Estimates: Estimates of species abundance in a study area based on analysis of shipboard and/or aerial survey data.
- Scientific Literature and Study Results: Results of research focused on hearing and diving physiology, behavioral responses to human generated sound, and reducing the effects of sound (e.g., Sound Propagation and Effects Modeling).
- Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP): A program that funds innovative environmental technologies for the Department of Defense (DoD).
- Environmental Security Technology Certification Program. A program that promotes innovative environmental technologies through demonstration and validation at DoD sites.
The Navy’s Ongoing Protective and Conservation Measures
Environmental protection efforts have been a standard component of Navy operations for decades, enabling vital Navy training while protecting the terrestrial and marine environments. The Navy has developed a sophisticated set of procedures and tools to avoid harm and minimize effects to terrestrial and marine species and habitats. To protect and safeguard the marine environment, every Navy ship and its crew are thoroughly trained in and follow specific standard operating procedures.
Habitat restoration; endangered species surveys and management; and wetlands surveys and management.
Avoiding important habitats and Marine Protected Areas
Marine Protected Areas are important habitats for marine species. Officers are aware of Marine Protected Areas and take into account the sensitivity of these areas when planning their at-sea training and testing activities.
Establishing standoff distances for marine species
Naval vessels maneuver to keep at least 200 yards away from observed whales.
Posting shipboard lookouts
Navy shipboard lookouts (also referred to as “watchstanders”) are highly qualified and experienced observers that undergo extensive training to certify that they have the necessary skills to detect activity on the water that could be marine mammals.
These personnel undergo extensive training and learn their role in environmental protection, laws governing the protection of marine species, and the Navy’s commitment to environmental stewardship
Monitoring for marine species prior to training exercises
Prior to training, Navy personnel monitor the ocean area, both visually and acoustically, for marine mammal activity. If the animals approach too closely, the training activity is altered or suspended to minimize the potential for effects.
Supporting Vital Marine Mammal Research
The Navy provides a significant amount of funding and support to marine research. In the past five years the agency funded over $100 million ($26 million in FY08 alone) to universities, research institutions, federal laboratories, private companies, and independent researchers around the world to study marine mammals. The U.S. Navy sponsors seventy percent of all U.S. research concerning the effects of human-generated sound on marine mammals and 50 percent of such research conducted worldwide. Major topics of Navy-supported research include the following:
- Better understanding marine species distribution and important habitat areas.
- Developing methods to detect and monitor marine species prior to and during training.
- Understanding the effects of sound on marine mammals, turtles, and fish.
- Developing tools to model and estimate potential effects of sound
Minimizing Potential Effects on the Environment
Defending the U.S. and protecting military personnel requires continuous and realistic training in the air, on land and at sea. The SOCAL Range Complex provides existing training ranges, Special Use Airspace, and Operational Areas for the Navy to conduct this essential training.
Protection of our environmental and natural resources is an integral part of the Navy training program. The Navy prepared the SOCAL Range Complex Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (EIS/OEIS) to assess the potential effects of training on environmental, cultural and socioeconomic resources in and around the range complex.
The EIS/OEIS process also provided an opportunity for the Navy to openly review and assess its current and planned operations at a comprehensive range complex level and ensure that the benefits of operational, scientific and technological advances are applied toward minimizing effects.
The natural resources in and around the SOCAL Range Complex are enjoyed by many for their livelihoods, recreation purposes and aesthetics. The waters and coastal areas around the range complex are popular for sport fishing, commercial fishing, diving, and other recreational activities (e.g., boating or kayaking). Commercial ships also use the waters and coastal areas around the range complex.
Navy operations and commercial and recreational ocean activity have coexisted in the SOCAL Range Complex for decades. The Navy provides advance notification of scheduled activities to minimize inconveniences to public interests and help ensure the continued safe and cooperative coexistence.
The Navy understands and recognizes the potential for training activities to affect the community and fishing industries and takes proactive steps to minimize these effects. As part of preparing the EIS/OEIS, the Navy carefully evaluated potential effects of its current and proposed activities on: