Jefferson Democrats pass resolution seeking more comment opportunities for Navy electronic warfare training project
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Jefferson County Democratic Party Secretary John Hamilton, left, and attorney Ken Bleyer discuss on Tuesday night a resolution calling for more public comment opportunities on the permits needed for a Navy electronic warfare training project. Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County Democrats have passed a resolution calling for more public input on a proposal for electronic warfare training on the West End.

The Navy did not provide thorough public input on a proposal for a U.S. Forest Service special-use permit in the Olympic National Forest, critics said.

“The objective is to pass a resolution that makes a clear statement about the breach of process, and to demand the Forest Service and the Navy rectify that by hosting a series of public hearings,” said attorney Ken Bleyer of Port Townsend, who prepared the draft resolution, which was unanimously approved by a voice vote Tuesday night with about 40 people present.

The resolution will go to a variety of public officials — a list of whom has yet to be determined — said George Yount, county party chairman.

The Forest Service permit would allow access to 15 logging-road sites in Olympic National Forest on which three camper-sized Navy vehicles would be dispersed.

A fourth emitter would be at a fixed site at the Navy base at Pacific Beach in Grays Harbor County.

The trucks, equipped with antennas mounted 14 feet off the ground, would emit electromagnetic radiation as part of simulated targeting exercises performed by Whidbey Naval Air Station pilots.

The $11.5 million warfare training project would mark the first use of electromagnetic radiation for the Navy training that pilots now simulate with internal aircraft controls.

The plan would use the Pacific Northwest Military Operating Area, which includes hundreds of miles of airspace above the state’s Pacific Coast and offshore areas.

The Navy’s environmental assessment for the project, which found no significant impact, can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Electrowarfare.

Public comment on the proposed Forest Service permit can be emailed to Forest Service environmental coordinator Greg Wahl at gtwahl@fs.fed.us or sent to Wahl at 1835 Black Lake Blvd. S.W., Olympia, WA 98512.

Dean Millett, Pacific District ranger for the U.S. Forest Service, has said he will not make a draft decision on the permit until “pretty deep into 2015.”

The proposal has been discussed in public meetings in Forks on Oct. 14, in Port Angeles on Nov. 6 and Wednesday night in Pacific Beach.

The Forks and Port Angeles meetings drew almost universal public opposition.

Comments at those question-and-answer forums were not recorded and will not be part of the official record, officials have said.

The Democrats’ resolution calls for extending the deadline for public comment on the Navy’s permit application beyond the current Nov. 28 deadline, for public hearings on the no-significant-impact finding and for the Forest Service to initiate its own scientific investigations.

The public comment period on the Forest Service permit originally was set to end Oct. 14. It was extended to Oct. 30 and then again to Nov. 28.

Notice of the proposal originally was not published in North Olympic Peninsula newspapers but instead in The Seattle Times, The Daily World, The Olympian and the Montesano Vidette.

Since the plan affects Jefferson, Clallam and Grays Harbor counties, the resolution requests that public on-the-record meetings be held in each county seat.

“There was an enormous breach of process by the Navy and the Forest Service in connection with this particular application,” Bleyer said.

Navy spokeswoman Sheila Murray called the controversy over electronic warfare “a molehill that has turned into a mountain.”

She said the emitters’ impedance is far less than a standard television truck.

Electrical impedance is defined as the measure of opposition a circuit presents to a current when a voltage is applied.

The trucks will use existing roads and not impact the environment, Murray said, citing the Navy’s finding in its environmental impact statement.

The Jefferson County Democrats’ resolution said there was no independent research to support the statement of nonsignificance.

Bleyer said the impact of the electronic warfare system should be judged in conjunction with a proposed increase in Growler jets at Whidbey Island.

The meeting about a proposal to increase the number of EA-18G Growler aircraft at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island up to 36 is set from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 4 at Fort Worden Commons.

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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.



Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb contributed to this report.

Last modified: November 19. 2014 6:42PM
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