KINGS BAY, Ga — The Navy has completed its environmental assessment for homeporting the new Columbia Class submarines at the Naval Submarine Base on Kings Bay. It has been determined no environmental impact statement will be required.
While some environmentalists are disappointed, the Navy says this new class of submarines helps continue the mission of defending the nation.
The Navy plans to replace the Ohio Class submarines with the Columbia Class in 2028.
“No vessel lasts forever,” Navy spokesperson Tedd Brown said. “And the Ohio class, it’s been a great submarine for the Navy, but it’s nearing the end of its service life and it has to be replaced.
The transition process will take about 12 years. Brown said after analyzing the area with an environmental assessment, they didn’t find any significant impacts to the human or natural environment.
“We did not find really any impacts from this transition,” Brown said. “The number of submarines will remain the same, the number of personnel will remain approximately the same as well.”
A total of 12 Columbia class submarines will be built and run through Kings Bay for sea trials. An undetermined number of the subs will be homeported here, and the remaining vessels will go to the West coast. Each sub has two crews of 320.
The Navy offered public comment on the new subs over the summer. And the Nuclear Watch South nonprofit submitted one in July. They state, “The Kings Bay Trident nuclear submarine base near St. Marys, Georgia, deploys enough nuclear firepower to destroy all life on Earth.”
They referenced how the last time the navy conducted an environmental impact statement was in 1977. Soon after, environmentalists discovered the north Atlantic Right whales use these waters to give birth in the Cumberland Sound.
“As we continue to evolve in our learning, we will understand that there are even more species, both marine and terrestrial that that rely on the area that Kings Bay is currently occupying and using,” Wild Cumberland executive director Jessica Howell-Edwards said.
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Wild Cumberland is an organization focused on protecting the wilderness on Cumberland Island off Georgia Coast. Howell-Edwards says the original impact statement is outdated.
“I think that it would be it would give all of us better peace of mind if the Navy had gone that extra step and gone through the environmental impact statement,” Howell-Edwards said. “That is a more rigorous and thorough process.”
Brown says the environment is important and so is their mission.
“This will basically enable Kings Bay and the Navy’s submarine program to continue to support national defense at the level that they currently are,” Brown said.
The new Columbia Class submarine is still under construction.
The Kings Bay base will also undergo construction. Three facilities will be demolished, eight new facilities will be constructed, and five facilities will be upgraded and renovated.