Petition with 110,000 signed hard copies against U.S. Navy plans delivered to Forest Service office
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An EA-18G Growler assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 lands on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s Ault Field.

By Chris McDaniel
Peninsula Daily News

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OLYMPIA — A petition opposing plans by the U.S. Navy for an $11.5 million expansion of electromagnetic warfare training in Olympic National Park has drawn widespread support.

A Navy spokeswoman said the petition repeats “a number of misperceptions.”

Hard copies of about 110,000 of the petition signatures were hand-delivered Sept. 23 to the office of Reta Laford, forest supervisor for Olympic National Forest, in Olympia.

The petition asking that Olympic National Forest deny a Navy permit to place electromagnetic transmitters in the forest on the West End was started by Aaron Viles, a Midwestern man who has traveled through the Olympic Peninsula, said Bev Goldie of Sequim, president of Save the Olympic Peninsula, which supports the petition.

The petition cites noise and “possible health impacts of [electromagnetic field] weaponry” as reasons to deny the permit.

Goldie said people can see signatures online, “but to actually see them in hard copy makes a pretty big statement.

“We don't want the Forest Service to think that this is a small project,” she said.

So far, about 127,000 people from around the globe have signed the petition, which can be viewed online at http://tinyurl.com/NavyPetition.

At issue is a Navy request for a U.S. Forest Service permit to deploy three mobile, camper-sized electromagnetic transmitters on 12 Olympic National Forest logging roads in Clallam and Jefferson counties and Grays Harbor County.

The Navy plans to set up a fixed electronic transmitter on its property at Pacific Beach.

The Forest Service is considering more than 3,000 public comment submissions received during an official comment period that closed Nov. 28 after twice being extended due to intense public interest and plans to issue a final decision next year.

The Navy also is considering applying for use of three state Department of Natural Resources roads, although it has not yet submitted a request to DNR for use of that land.

Added to records

The hard copies of the petition have been “reviewed, scanned and added to our records,” Laford said.

“We value public comment in our decision-making process and will seriously evaluate comments,” she said.

“Thank you for respectfully sharing your views.”

Environmental activists have said they are worried Olympic National Park — designated as a Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — will no longer be a place of quiet refuge because of the noise emitted by EA-18G Growler jets participating in exercises.

Navy: 'Misperceptions'

“The claims made by the author of the petition to prevent Navy training over the Olympic Peninsula repeat a number of misperceptions regarding ongoing and future Navy operations,” said Liane Nakahara, Navy spokeswoman.

The proposed plan does not introduce new flight areas, said Capt. Michael Nortier, commanding officer at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Navyelectronicwarfare.

The number, duration and frequency would change about 10 percent, or about one more flight a day, Nortier said.

He said the Navy has no intention of low-altitude flights or supersonic speeds. Most flights will take place at or above 10,000 feet, he said.

Nakahara said the noise produced by Growlers is “comparable to the EA-6B Prowler, which it replaces, and in several flight profiles is actually quieter than the Prowler.”

The Prowler had performed flight operations in the Northwest for decades before being retired by the Navy in June.

Said Nakahara: “It is important to differentiate between opinions and facts, and we will continue to dispel misconceptions about the Navy's plans to enhance ongoing electronic warfare training in the Northwest.”

Draft decision

A draft decision on the Olympic National Forest permits is expected to be made before the end of the year, Forest Service spokesman Glen Sachet has said.

The Forest Service does not expect to make a final decision until 2016, Laford said.

After public comments are considered, “a draft decision would be issued with a 45-day objection period,” Laford said.

After objections are addressed, the Forest Service “could issue a decision for a special-use permit,” she said.

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

Last modified: October 08. 2015 7:22PM
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