[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 160 (Friday, August 17, 2012)]
[Pages 49784-49786]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-20279]



Department of the Navy

Notice of Public Meetings for the Draft Environmental Impact 
Statement/Legislative Environmental Impact Statement for Renewal of 
Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Public Land Withdrawal, California

AGENCY: Department of the Navy, DoD.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: Pursuant to Section 102(2)(c) of the National Environmental 
Policy Act of 1969 and regulations implemented by the Council on 
Environmental Quality (40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) parts 1500-
1508), and in accordance with the requirements of the California 
Military Lands Withdrawal and Overflights Act of 1994 (Pub. L. 103-433, 
part of the California Desert Protection Act), the Department of the 
Navy (DoN), in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), 
has prepared and filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a 
Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/Legislative Environmental 
Impact Statement (LEIS). Separately, and in accordance with the Engle 
Act of 1958 (Pub. L. 85-337) and 43 CFR part 2310, the DoN submitted a 
land withdrawal renewal application to BLM.
    The Draft EIS/LEIS evaluates the potential environmental effects 
associated with the proposed Congressional reauthorization of the 
current land withdrawal of approximately 1.03 million acres of public 
land in Kern, Inyo, and San Bernardino counties, California. The 
proposed 25-year withdrawal would comprise the current North and South 
ranges at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake (NAWSCL), California. 
The Draft EIS/LEIS also addresses an increase of up to 25 percent in 
the tempo of military activity within current land use areas approved 
for designated uses, and the implementation of an update of the 
installation's Comprehensive Land Use Management Plan (CLUMP). The 
proposed action would enable the DoN to meet its mission to support 
state-of-the-art air warfare weapons systems testing and evaluation, 
and the readiness of the military services, using existing facilities 
and infrastructure, and on safe, operationally realistic, and 
instrumented land ranges.
    With the filing of the Draft EIS/LEIS and submission of the 
application to renew the public land withdrawal, the DoN and BLM are 
initiating a 90-day public comment period and have scheduled three 
public open house meetings to receive oral and written comments on the 
Draft EIS/LEIS and the proposed renewal of the public land withdrawal. 
This notice announces the dates and locations of the public meetings 
and provides supplementary information.
    Dates and Addresses: The 90-day public comment period for the Draft 
EIS/LEIS began on August 10, 2012 and will end on November 8, 2012. The 
DoN and BLM will hold three public meetings, using an open house 
format, to inform the public about the Draft EIS/LEIS and the public 
land withdrawal

[[Page 49785]]

renewal process. Representatives from the DoN and BLM will be available 
to discuss and answer questions on the proposed action and 
alternatives, the land withdrawal renewal, the environmental planning 
process, and the findings presented in the Draft EIS/LEIS. Public open 
house meetings will be held at each location between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 
p.m. on the following dates:
    1. Tuesday, October 2, 2012, SpringHill Suites, 113 East Sydnor 
Avenue, Ridgecrest, California 93555.
    2. Wednesday, October 3, 2012, Trona Community Senior Center, 13187 
Market Street, Trona, California 93562.
    3. Thursday, October 4, 2012, Statham Hall, 138 North Jackson 
Street, Lone Pine, California 93545.
    Federal, state and local agencies and officials, and interested 
groups and individuals are encouraged to provide oral or written 
comments in person at any of the public meetings. A stenographer will 
be present to transcribe oral comments. Comments also may be submitted 
in writing anytime during the public comment period to: Naval 
Facilities Engineering Command Southwest, ATTN: NAWSCL Land Withdrawal 
Renewal EIS/LEIS Project Manager (Mr. Gene Beale), 1220 Pacific 
Highway, San Diego, California 92132-5190. In addition, comments may be 
submitted any time during the public comment period via the project Web 
site: http://www.chinalakeleis.com.
    All statements, whether oral, oral transcription, written, or 
submitted via the web site during the public review period will become 
part of the public record on the Draft EIS/LEIS and be considered in 
preparing the Final EIS/LEIS if postmarked or received by November 8, 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Naval Facilities Engineering Command, 
Southwest, ATTN: NAWSCL Land Withdrawal Renewal EIS/LEIS Project 
Manager (Mr. Gene Beale), 1220 Pacific Highway, San Diego, California 

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The California Military Lands Withdrawal and 
Overflights Act of 1994, withdrew and reserved approximately 1.03 
million acres of public lands comprising the NAWSCL for defense-related 
purposes for a period of 20 years (until October 14, 2014). The 
Secretary of the DoN is seeking to extend the withdrawal of these 
public lands and is required to publish a draft EIS addressing the 
effects of continued withdrawal by October 31, 2012. On June 10, 2011, 
the DoN published a Notice of Intent to prepare this EIS/LEIS in the 
Federal Register (76 FR 34066) and on June 13, 2011 submitted a land 
withdrawal application to BLM. This notice announces the availability 
of the Draft EIS/LEIS for public review and the dates and locations of 
public meetings to receive comments on the Draft EIS/LEIS.
    The purpose of the proposed action is to support the renewal of the 
1994 withdrawal at NAWSCL by an Act of Congress in order to continue to 
support DoN and Department of Defense (DoD) DoD use of 1.03 million 
acres of fully instrumented land ranges for Research, Development, 
Acquisition, Test, and Evaluation (RDAT&E) and military readiness 
training activities. NAWSCL is the DoN's full-spectrum RDAT&E center 
for weapons systems associated with air warfare, aircraft weapons 
integration, missiles and missile subsystems, and assigned airborne 
electronic warfare systems. RDAT&E activities are needed to develop new 
weapons systems and ensure that these systems perform to their designed 
specifications. The NAWSCL land ranges provide the safe, operationally 
realistic, and instrumented environment needed to fulfill DoN and DoD 
RDAT&E requirements. Tenant commands supported are the Naval Air 
Warfare Center Weapons Division and other DoD RDAT&E and training 
    The proposed action will also support the revision, update, and 
implementation of NAWSCL's CLUMP, which meets the land, cultural, 
natural, and environmental resources management requirements of the 
California Desert Protection Act and the Sikes Act (16 U.S. Code 670a-
670o, as amended in 1997). The updated CLUMP will ensure no loss in the 
capability of the installation to support its military mission and 
facilitate environmentally sound resource management decisions when 
responding to planned increases in emerging military readiness needs. 
It would also support the warfighter by ensuring the land use 
management supports current and evolving technology, allowing for 
solutions to theater-relevant problems and to maintain readiness.
    The Draft EIS/LEIS evaluates the potential environmental impacts of 
two action alternatives and the No Action Alternative. Alternative 1 
(Withdrawal and Increased Tempo) is the DoN's preferred alternative and 
provides NAWSCL the greatest flexibility to accommodate current and 
evolving DoN and DoD military readiness activities. Alternative 1 
includes: (1) Congressional renewal of the land withdrawal for a period 
of 25 years; (2) revise and implement the CLUMP; and (3) increase 
mission activities by up to 25 percent, expand unmanned aerial and 
surface systems, and expand existing and introduce evolving directed 
energy weapons development.
    Alternative 2 (Withdrawal and Baseline Tempo) provides for the 
Congressional renewal of the land withdrawal (25 year renewal) and 
continuation of military activities at current levels. Nonmilitary 
activities would continue according to current patterns of use. The 
existing CLUMP would be revised, as appropriate, and implemented to 
manage land use and environmental resources at NAWSCL.
    Under the No Action Alternative (Alternative 3), the renewal of the 
withdrawal of public lands at NAWSCL would not occur; administrative 
control of the withdrawn land would remain with the DoN until 
environmental remediation and health and safety concerns were addressed 
to allow the return of the land to BLM. The expiration of the public 
land withdrawal would terminate the DoN's authority to use 
approximately 92 percent of the NAWSCL-managed lands. Although the DoN 
would continue to be responsible for the remaining fee-owned/leased 
land and managed airspace, these land resources would not be sufficient 
to accommodate the hazard patterns, targets, maneuvering areas, special 
equipment, explosive areas, and other features associated with RDAT&E 
and training events. As a result, there would be a probable dramatic 
reduction in, or potentially the eventual cessation of, RDAT&E 
activities at NAWSCL.
    The Draft EIS/LEIS provides an analysis of the potential 
environmental effects of the proposed action on the following 
resources: Land use, noise, air quality, biological resources, cultural 
resources, geology and soils, water resources, socioeconomics 
(including environmental justice), utilities and public services, 
public health and safety, hazardous materials and waste, and traffic 
and circulation.
    Specific findings within the Draft EIS/LEIS indicate that ongoing 
aircraft flight events at Armitage Field would exceed noise 
compatibility thresholds at certain off-installation noise sensitive 
receptors. However, the continued implementation of the land use 
management recommendations identified in the 2011 Air Installation 
Compatibility Use Zones Update would minimize noise impacts to 
surrounding areas.
    Potential brush fires associated with the proposed testing and 
training activities may result in significant impacts to biological 
resources. Implementation of mitigation and conservation measures as 
described in the NAWSCL Integrated Natural

[[Page 49786]]

Resources Management Plan would reduce these potential impacts. On 
March 9, 2012, the DoN initiated consultation with the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service in accordance with Section 7 of the Endangered Species 
Act for the potential impacts to Federally-listed species present at 
NAWSCL (specifically, desert tortoise, Mojave tui chub, southwestern 
willow flycatcher, least Bell's vireo, and Inyo California towhee).
    Impacts to cultural resources from the proposed action would not be 
significant and would be further reduced by implementation of the 
standard operating procedures for the treatment of cultural resources 
described in the Integrated Cultural Resources Management Plan. In 
accordance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, 
the DoN initiated consultation with the State Historic Preservation 
Officer for on March 9, 2012. Native American access to the Coso Hot 
Springs and Prayer Site would continue to be conducted in accordance 
with the existing Memorandum of Agreement between NAWSCL and Native 
American tribes.
    The Draft EIS/LEIS was distributed to Federal, state, and local 
agencies, elected officials, and other interested individuals and 
organizations. Copies of the Draft EIS/LEIS are available for public 
review at the following libraries:
    1. Ridgecrest Public Library, 131 East Las Flores Avenue, 
Ridgecrest, California 93555.
    2. Trona Branch Library, 82805 Mount View, Trona, California 93562.
    3. Lone Pine Branch Library, 127 Bush Street, Lone Pine, California 
    4. Barstow Branch Library, 304 East Buena Vista Street, Barstow, 
California 92311.
    5. Mojave Public Library, 16916-1/2 State Highway 14, Space D2, 
Mojave, California 93501.
    6. Lancaster Public Library, 601 West Lancaster Boulevard, 
Lancaster, California 93534.
    The Draft EIS/LEIS is also available for electronic viewing or 
download at the project Web site at http://www.chinalakeleis.com. A 
paper copy of the Executive Summary or a single compact disc of the 
Draft EIS/LEIS will be made available upon written request.

    Dated: August 14, 2012.
C.K. Chiappetta,
Lieutenant Commander, Office of the Judge Advocate General, U.S. Navy, 
Federal Register Liaison Officer.
[FR Doc. 2012-20279 Filed 8-16-12; 8:45 am]