ELECTRONIC WARFARE TRAINING — Department of Natural Resources says 'not interested' in participating with Navy
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U.S. Navy
The EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft.
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You can also read Goldmark's letter at http://issuu.com/peninsuladailynews/docs/navy_electromagnetic_warfare_letter?e=1313114/11650659

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OLYMPIA — The state Department of Natural Resources says it isn't interested in allowing its land to be used for the Navy's proposed electronic warfare training.

“DNR land has been publicly discussed as a location for the Navy's proposed electromagnetic warfare training on the Olympic Peninsula,” said Peter Goldmark, state commissioner of public lands, in a brief, one-page letter to Rear Adm. Jeffrey Ruth, commander of Navy Region Northwest, that was delivered electronically Friday.

“Though we have not received a formal land use or lease application for this project, we feel that we are adequately informed to decide that we would not be interested in participating in this training exercise.”

No reasons for the decision were given in Goldmark's letter.

The Navy has not applied for a permit to use the three DNR sites, but officials had planned to do so soon, said Liane Nakahara, a Navy public affairs officer.

“With the recent information pertaining to potential DNR concerns with issuing this permit, the Navy is reevaluating its options in this matter,” she said.

In addition to the three forested DNR sites and roads in the west end of Jefferson County, the Navy wants to use 12 other locations in Olympic National Forest in western Clallam, Jefferson and Grays Harbor counties.

The Forest Service is expected to rule on a permit for those sites later this year.

The Navy wants to use the sites beginning this September.

If the Navy ignores the DNR letter and applies for permits, “we will follow normal processes as with any other permit,” said Matthew Randazzo, senior adviser to Goldmark.

He wouldn't elaborate on what would then happen, reiterating only that DNR “had serious concerns regarding the proposed uses of state trust lands in this project, so we will not be participating.”

Randazzo, a former Port Angeles resident, also would not outline DNR's concerns or what reasoning led up to Goldmark's letter.

North Olympic Peninsula residents have expressed concerns about possible health hazards from the use of electromagnetic radiation and about noise from EA-18G Growlers, electronic warfare aircraft, flying from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and crossing the Peninsula.

In the DNR's letter, Goldmark called the Navy “one of its most important and collaborative partners,” citing a 2014 Hood Canal Easement project, “the largest aquatic conservation easement in state history,” as well as a series of upland conservation projects through the U.S. Department of Defense's Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration program.

“It is because of our excellent working relationship across a broad array of priority issues that we feel it is important to inform the Navy of one project we would prefer not to partner on at this time,” Goldmark wrote in his letter.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Read Goldmark's letter at http://issuu.com/peninsuladailynews/docs/navy_electromagnetic_warfare_letter?e=1313114/11650659)

Since only three of the 15 sites for trucks carrying mobile transmitters in the Olympic Military Operations Area would be on DNR land, the Navy possibly could do without those sites in the training it expects to begin this fall.

“As none of these sites were proposed for training use in the immediate future, there is no urgency to reach an ultimate decision,” Nakahara said.

“Use of the mobile signal transmitter vehicles on DNR lands was only one part of the proposal,” she added.

“The other enhancements to the training are proceeding ahead as planned.”

In an effort to help train pilots in identifying enemy communications and targeting weapons, trucks equipped with antennas mounted 14 feet off the ground would emit electromagnetic radiation.

Growlers would fly over any of the mobile emitters in groups of three, with a lead jet trying to pick up the signals.

The training also would be done in two other areas of the state, with two trucks in the Okanagan Military Operations Area in north-central Washington and six in the Roosevelt Military Operations Area in northeastern Washington.

These locations are on national forest land.

Dean Millett, Pacific District ranger for the U.S. Forest Service, said he expects to make a draft decision on a special-use road permit for the Olympic Peninsula locations by the middle of this year.

Last September, Millett issued a decision notice in support of the Navy's environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact, then restarted the comment process after complaints from Peninsula residents who said they were unaware of the project.

If Millet supports the Navy for a second time, those who submitted feedback during the comment period will have 45 days to object to Millett's supervisors before a permit could be issued.

The Navy's Pacific Fleet officials will make the decision about how to proceed with DNR, Nakahara said.

“Several people will have to decide what the next step would be, how much it would affect our training and what needs to be discussed next with DNR,” she said.

“Until all appropriate parties within the Navy are able to review this information, we cannot speculate as to what the appropriate response would be.”

The Navy has said electronic warfare training has been occurring in the Olympic Peninsula airspace for more than 40 years — but without the electromagnetic emitters it is now proposing to use.

“The use of these sites by mobile signal vehicles on the ground is being proposed to increase the effectiveness of that training so that the men and women preforming this vital mission are well-prepared when they go into harm's way,” Nakahara said.

“The use of this equipment would have no significant effect on the environment and would pose no hazard to people or wildlife.”

In addition, she added, electronic training on the Peninsula would save Growler crews a 400-mile trip to a training area in Idaho.

The $11.5 million project would be the Navy's first use of mobile emitters of electromagnetic radiation for training that pilots currently simulate with internal aircraft controls.

The Growler crews would practice detecting the signals for as many as 16 hours a day, 260 days a year.

When in operation, the trucks — which would be kept at Navy facilities in Pacific Beach in Grays Harbor County and driven to the Peninsula when needed — would be surrounded by taped-off, 101-foot perimeters, and the Navy says they would not impact people or wildlife, partly because the trucks' antennas would emit radiation straight up into the sky.

The Forest Service has received almost 2,300 public comments on the project. They can be reviewed online at the Forest Service website, http://tinyurl.com/pdn-navycomments.

Last modified: March 01. 2015 11:11AM
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