SWANSBORO — Ken Cobb of Jacksonville looks at the Navy’s proposed action for at-sea training off the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico from two perspectives.
As a retired Marine he understands the importance of training for the military. He also loves to fish and believes that training can be balanced with protections for the environment.
“You’ve got to have the training to get yourself ready, it has to be done,” he said. “But when the day’s over, I’m a guy who likes to go out on Onslow Bay and do some fishing.”
An interest in both brought him out to a public meeting held by the Navy Tuesday evening in Swansboro.
The North Carolina stop was the last in a series of open house meetings providing information on the draft environmental impact statement completed for activities in the Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing Study Area.
The Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing region covers approximately 2.6 million square nautical miles and encompasses the at-sea portion of Navy range complexes and research, development, testing and evaluation ranges along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States.
Under the proposed action, the Navy is looking at increasing training levels within the study area.
Jene Nissen, Atlantic Fleet Training and Testing EIS project manager, said the same types of training will continue in the same general areas, but they would have the capacity for a higher level of training while training events are underway.
Alternative 2 in the draft EIS, which is the proposed action, would approximately double the training capacity in the AFTT region. That doesn’t necessarily mean training levels will automatically double but the Navy wants to be sure it has the ability to do the training it needs.
“One of our goals is to be sure our sailors have the training they need to execute their mission so they can do so successfully and come home safe,” he said.
The training activities include the use of active sonar and explosives.
Protecting marine life during the course of the training has been a concern raised during the EIS process.
Marine resources specialists on hand said the impact on the majority of marine species is considered to be short-lived behavorial impact, such as animals leaving an area and returning after training is over.
Sarah Bellau said to mitigate impacts the Navy uses trained personnel aboard ships and on aircraft to spot and alert leaders when protected marine life is in the training area.
“Most of the mitigation we do involves marine species awareness training,” she said.
Standard procedure is to shutdown activities for about 30 minutes to allow the animal time to leave the area. In the case of sonar, it is powered down if the animal is within 1,000 yards or shut down if it is within 200 yards.