Navy still examining pursuit of permit for using Department of Natural Resources lands in electronic warfare training

By Chris McDaniel
Peninsula Daily News

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The Navy still is studying whether to submit a permit request for the use of state Department of Natural Resources lands to conduct electronic warfare training.

Peninsula Daily News erroneously reported Sunday that the Navy had decided not to submit permits after DNR announced it wasn't interested in allowing its West End land to be used for the proposed training.

Three of 15 sites the Navy has tagged in the Olympic Military Operations Area for the $11.5 million project — identified in Navy documents as sites 3, 12 and 14 — are on forested DNR land in West Jefferson County.

“We never stated that we made any decision to not apply for a permit from DNR for those three sites,” said Liane Nakahara, Navy public affairs officer.

“We simply said that the Navy is still evaluating all options, and that since none of the DNR sites was proposed for use in the immediate future, there is no urgency to reach a decision as to whether or not we will still submit a request.”

The Navy may decide to proceed without the DNR sites, but that decision has not yet been made either, Nakahara said.

Conversely, if the Navy ultimately decides to submit a request for permitting to DNR, the state agency will consider it in the same fashion as all other permitting requests.

“We have already expressed our concerns and indicated our preferred course of action, but we would treat an application the same as any other application and review it objectively,” said Matthew Randazzo, senior adviser to state Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark.

“If we receive a formal application, we will conduct a review under the State Environmental Policy Act, as well as assessing whether the proposal is consistent with our federal habitat conservation plan and constitutional trust land-management obligations,” Randazzo said.

“We will then provide those assessments to inform Commissioner Goldmark for his ultimate decision.”

The Navy is also considering 12 other sites in Olympic National Forest in western Clallam, Jefferson and Grays Harbor counties if a permit is issued for their use, Nakahara said.

“The process is moving forward with the U.S. Forest Service,” she said.

The Navy wants to use those sites beginning in September.

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

Glen A. Sachet, Forest Service regional issues manager for the Pacific Northwest Region, said the agency is analyzing the 3,314 comments on the project.

They can be reviewed at http://tinyurl.com/pdn-navycomments.

Those who submitted feedback during the comment period will have 45 days to object to the decision before a permit can be issued.

The project would use mobile emitters of electromagnetic radiation for training that Boeing EA-18G Growler crews stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island currently simulate with internal aircraft controls.

Aircraft from Whidbey Island would target electromagnetic radiation from emitters affixed to up to three camper-sized vehicles that would move from site to site.

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

The Navy says that when they are in operation, the trucks — which would be kept at Navy facilities in Pacific Beach in Grays Harbor County — would be surrounded by taped-off, 101-foot perimeters.

The radiation would not impact people or wildlife, partly because the trucks' antennas would emit radiation straight up into the sky, the Navy has said.

Training also would be done on national forest land 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.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, and cmcdaniel@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 16. 2015 9:27AM
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