Navy selects plan to modernize Nevada bombing ranges

By Justin Katz / March 18, 2020 at 12:15 PM

The Navy announced today it has finalized plans to modify and expand its Nevada bombing ranges to accommodate modern aircraft and munitions; however, the changes still require congressional approval.

The service published its final environmental impact statement -- a lengthy analysis of the effects the military's actions would have on the public and surrounding areas -- in January 2020. The record of decision, published today in the Federal Register, states the service selected "Alternative 3."

Federal law mandates the Navy formulate several alternative options in addition to its proposed plan based on public comments, state government input and other factors as well as a "no action" option that would maintain the status quo.

In this case, the service wants to expand the Nevada bombing ranges to better accommodate the capabilities of modern aircraft like the EA-18G Growler and weapons like the Joint Direct Attack Munition.

"The Navy is proposing to withdraw or acquire all property that falls within weapons danger zones and surface danger zones in the live-fire ranges, and all property in Dixie Valley necessary to support non-live-fire training. The specific properties and exact acreage of withdrawal areas and property to be acquired will depend on the alternative chosen," according to the EIS.

The "no action" alternative concludes the service's training "would be significantly limited."

While announcing a record of decision usually represents the last step to satisfy requirements in the National Environmental Policy Act, the Navy will ultimately have to seek congressional approval for the expansion. To move forward, according to the EIS, Congress would need to renew a 1999 piece of legislation, set to expire in November 2021, that gave the military authority to use the public land.

The record of decision suggests the Navy sent lawmakers a legislative proposal ahead of this year's defense policy bill requesting as much.

"This alternative will support the Navy's request for a legislative proposal in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 for congressional action and presidential approval for renewal of the current federal land withdrawal and withdrawal of additional federal land to expand the range," according to the document.