Navy Needs to Talk to Coastal Communities about its War Games
Submit Comments by March 11 at 11:00 PM
Comments should be submitted here: https://goaeis.com/Public-Involvement/Public-Comment/Comment-Form
As the Navy updates its previous environmental impact analyses with new information and analytical methods, citizens of costal communities in Alaska expect the Navy to meaningfully engage with us early and often. Homer, Kodiak, Seward and Cordova are coastal communities on the Gulf of Alaska whose tribal, fishing, tourism, and scientific communities must participate meaningfully in the development of improved acoustic models, the updating of marine mammal densities and marine species criteria and thresholds, as well as current and best available science and analytical methods. It is especially necessary to draw on the knowledge and expertise of our coastal communities in the review of procedural mitigation measures and in the consideration of additional geographic and/or temporal mitigation measures.
Here in coastal Alaska we depend on our fisheries and the life in our oceans. It is a source of livelihood and a way of life. Working people, local fishery managers and local decision makers need the Navy to reach out and engage with them at every step of this process. The Navy acknowledged in 2016 that it needed to engage with communities “early and often” in developing its Northern Edge exercises. In a letter to Senator Lisa Murkowksi in 2016 Dennis V. McGinn, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Energy, Installations, & Environment stated:
“I readily admit we could have done a much better job reaching out to potentially affected stakeholders leading up to NE15. The Navy shares your position that it is critical for us to engage early and often with potentially affected stakeholders leading up to NE17…the Navy values the unique training opportunity and environment that exists in Alaska and we are committed to being open with the public about our activities and environmental impacts.”
We expect that you will not repeat the mistake of ignoring our communities and will take the minimum steps required to learn key local knowledge and to be sure that the Navy does not harm our way of life. In the development of supplements to 2011 Gulf of Alaska Navy Training Activities Final EIS/OEIS and the 2016 Gulf of Alaska Navy Training Activities Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS the Navy must engage in two-way dialogue in the following ways:
- Meet with local and tribal governments in Kodiak, Homer, Cordova and Seward;
- Holding discussions with stakeholders at events such as the Alaska Federation of Natives, COMFISH, Alaska Maritime Symposium, and the Alaska Forum on the Environment;
- Attend local, regional, and state-wide events to initiate a two-way dialogue with citizens in coastal communities, fishing interests, the scientific and environmental community, and local, tribal, state and Federal officials.
Lastly, we expect that the Navy will include analysis of following in it’s scoping process:
- Possibility of conducting drills at a time of year when depth and breadth of impacted species is reduced. Is it not the case that the Navy needs to be prepared for military engagement in the winter?
- Ways to reduce the training area size.
- How to move exercises further offshore.
- Strategies to avoid all seamount areas.
- Efficacy of military vs. independent onboard scientific observers to monitor and verify compliance with all mitigation measures.
- Impact to salmon and the endangered Right Whale (Eubalaena).