Coast Guard Studies Environmental Impacts of Sonar for Security Tool

The Coast Guard published a Programmatice Environmental Assessment for the Nationwide Use of High Frequency and Ultra High Frequency SONAR. The publication notice is here. Comments can be posted at www.regulations.gov. The Environmental Assessment is here. The State of Hawaii is conducting a consistency determination per the Coastal Zone Management Act, see notice here. Per the PEA: The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is proposing the nationwide use of active sound navigation and ranging (SONAR) technologies that operate at frequencies of 50 kiloHertz (kHz) and greater from mobile platforms. Active SONAR technology would be used in support of USCG missions to locate, image, and classify submerged/underwater targets of interest (TOIs). The following Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) documents in detail the purpose of and need for the nationwide use of active SONAR technologies, the Proposed Action, and alternative solutions considered. This PEA is a program-level document that will provide the USCG with management-level analysis of the potential impacts of each alternative on the human and natural environments. This PEA is considered to be a high-level National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document analyzing the use of a range of high frequency (HF) and ultra high frequency (UHF) SONAR in a large geographic area. The HF and UHF SONAR could be in different forms and could be used on different types of platforms. The analysis in this PEA generally explains the types of forms and platforms that could be associated with HF and UHF SONAR. When a specific type of HF SONAR is proposed for use by the USCG in the future, this PEA will be reviewed to ensure that environmental issues specific to the chosen SONAR were adequately analyzed in this PEA. If the PEA analysis does not adequately analyze the environmental impacts from a particular SONAR package, form, or associated platform, additional tiered NEPA analysis, and documentation will be completed and additional consultation under ESA, as necessary, will be conducted prior to use. Comments are due by January 31, 2011.

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