Navy, National Park Service to work together to monitor jet noise over Olympic National Park
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U.S. Navy
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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SEQUIM — The Navy and National Park Service are coordinating efforts to monitor jet noise over Olympic National Park during training missions.

“I'm glad the Park Service — the staff who are charged with protecting the visitor experience at Olympic National Park — and the Navy will work together to monitor noise issues and evaluate any increase in noise from Navy training activities,” said U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer in a news release issued Thursday.

A Democrat from Gig Harbor, Kilmer represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula. He had requested that the Park Service and the Navy work together on monitoring jet noise.

Chris Haley, director of public affairs for Navy Region Northwest, said Thursday the Navy wants “to work with our federal partner and do the things we need to do so we can execute our national security mission and they can have a park that they can be proud of.”

A National Park Service spokesperson could not be reached for comment Thursday.

On May 12, Kilmer sent a letter to Dr. Kevin Shepherd, chair of the Federal Interagency Committee on Aviation Noise, and the secretaries of defense and interior urging a comprehensive review of jet noise over the national park.

The committee examines and reports on the impact that projects in the public and private sector could have on air traffic. It is made up of every federal agency that studies or plays a role in aviation policy.

In the letter, Kilmer highlighted the noise impact the Navy's proposed $11.5 million expansion of electronic warfare testing on the North Olympic Peninsula might have on Olympic National Park.

He also said he hopes military training needs can be met while the park is preserved for area residents and visitors.

“We all want our service members to be properly trained,” he said.

“By taking an approach grounded in science, we can ensure that happens in a way in which the soundscape and environment of our iconic park are respected.”

Permit requested

The Navy has requested a permit from the U.S. Forest Service to deploy three mobile, camper-sized electromagnetic transmitters on 12 Olympic National Forest logging roads in Clallam and Jefferson counties and Grays Harbor County.

EA-18G Growler aircraft crews stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island would target electromagnetic radiation from emitters affixed to up to three camper-sized vehicles that would move from site to site.

A U.S. Forest Service decision on the permit is expected in early 2016, agency spokesman Glen Sachet has said.

If the plan is approved, the number, duration and frequency of flights above the park would increase by about 10 percent, or about one more flight a day, Capt. Michael Nortier, commanding officer at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, has said.

But “we don't think there is additional impact that is going to bring on negative things for the park or the experience for the people in the park,” Haley said.

Despite the Navy's reassurances, environmental activists have said they are worried the park will no longer be a place of quiet refuge because of the noise emitted by jets participating in exercises.

Following the receipt of Kilmer's letter, the Federal Interagency Committee on Aviation Noise, referred to as FICAN, responded to Kilmer's request by encouraging the Navy and National Park Service to work together to review currently available data.

On June 12, FICAN met to review the letter.

Since the June meeting, the Navy has completed detailed noise modeling of its aircraft operations in military operating areas on the West End that partially overlay Olympic National Park, Shepherd said.

Additionally, the Park Service has presented the committee with an analysis of data gathered from acoustical monitoring stations set up in the park and made efforts to separate Navy operations from other air traffic.

Some of those monitoring stations were in place for a few days, while others have been present over a number years, Shepherd said.

Data reviewed

FICAN has reviewed the data and observed that “it is difficult to determine if the predicted noise exposure and the noise measurements made in Olympic National Park are consistent with one another,” Shepherd said.

“A more comprehensive analysis . . . perhaps coupled with additional noise monitoring, is probably necessary in order to have confidence in noise exposure estimates due to Navy flight operations,” he said.

Going forward, the Navy and Park Service have agreed to cooperate in collecting further data to better examine how the missions of the Navy and Olympic National Park can coexist in the future, Shepherd said.

FICAN “is willing to continue to review Navy and NPS noise modeling and monitoring results . . . and can provide suggestions to both agencies on potential mitigation and monitoring opportunities moving forward,” he 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: November 06. 2015 12:06AM
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