Washington State sues Navy over expansion of Growler jet training on Whidbey Island – Cascadia Magazine

Finally, we get a politician with the courage to stand up to the illegal activity the Navy has been pursuing for years in the air above a huge swath of the North Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The Navy started training pilots here, from what I can determine, in WWII. Think about that. Single engine prop planes, in an area that was very lightly populated. Simply add to that as you move forward in time, little by little. Now, they have decided that they want to continue to massively expand, though now there are tens of thousands of retirees and regular folks living within 30 to 40 miles radius from them. Their jets are louder than ever. Not even designed to be quiet. And most of the Navy personnel are simply here today gone tomorrow. I talked to a consultant to them, at the “public information day” a year or so back. He told me to my face that “you have it good! I live in Virginia and there are far more overflights by Navy training there than here!” That’s their perspective. At least we aren’t Virginia. They have no local knowledge nor perspective. They don’t care. They are on to the next assignment next year. They don’t care if they have huge training grounds in the middle of the Nevada desert to train in without anyone around. They don’t care if we sleep well at night. They don’t care about us at all. This is life in the modern military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about. You and I have no voice at all. Their plan is to turn the Sound into the Navy’s training ground. All of it. It’s very clear from their 100+ page EIS’s. And people who don’t hear the jets are just like people who don’t actually pay for healthcare. They don’t hear it so they don’t care. So who is on our side? Rep. Kilmer has no idea what to do other than “study the sound”.  The Governor is off polishing his defense resume for his  presidential bid. No one cares. It’s up to us and our AG. No matter what the outcome, thank you to AG Bob Ferguson and local politician Michelle Sandoval for suggesting that he look into it. We will remember you at the ballot box because we know, you took action when many others didn’t.


The Navy’s expansion of loud, low-flying Growler jet training flights on Whidbey Island drew a lawsuit on Tuesday from Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who alleges the Navy did not do enough to examine the flights’ impacts on people and wildlife. In a state that has long hosted military bases — and welcomed billions of dollars of Defense Department spending — the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle marks a rare court challenge of a Pentagon decision from state political leaders. Hal Bernton reports. (Seattle Times) See also: ‘An egregious violation’: WA sues Navy for dumping toxic paint into Puget Sound  The copper-based paint repels barnacles — but it could add up to a larger environmental cost. John Stang reports. (Cascadia Magazine)

Washington state sues Navy over expansion of Growler jet training on Whidbey Island 

U.S. Navy to Initiate Actions Without Completing Agency Consultations – WCAA

The Navy continues to show what seems to be an arrogance in it’s interpretations of the laws of the state and the country when it comes to providing proof of non-harm of the environment.  It is quite astounding that after all the thousands of comments that have been put forward by the people living in this area against the attempts of the Navy to co-op our air, land and waters for training exercises, when there are alternative locations available, that the Navy would choose to take this route. In the face of tribal cultural resources, environmental and historical areas of significance, etc., that the Navy would choose to put this current EIS document out, and that they are giving you, the people paying their salaries and who they defend, no public comment period, seems to be  both illegal and outrageous behavior. 

Keep the momentum up people. The legal system will be used,  and your calls to Derek Kilmer, Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray and locally our State Representatives and Senators is required to show that we are not going to let the Navy simply get it’s way because it puts out thousands of pages of erroneous information, on purpose. 


Port Townsend, WA, November 8, 2015 –  The West Coast Action Alliance and Olympic Forest Coalition received the astounding news that the Navy has unilaterally declared the consultation over, on effects of Navy activities on cultural and historic properties, with Washington’s State Historic Preservation Officer. In her immediate reply letter from the State, State Historic Preservation Officer Dr. Allyson Brooks strongly objected to the abrupt termination.

Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the Navy is required to consult with Washington’s Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.

In their letter to Dr. Brooks, the Navy claimed that they have complied with the requirements as set forth in the statute and regulations.

However, Dr. Brooks’ office has made it abundantly clear, and reconfirmed this in her letter, that the process is far from complete.  Dr. Brooks strenuously objected to such abrupt termination of ongoing discussions.

As of October 2, the Navy produced a 3,400-page Final EIS on Northwest Training and Testing, with no public comment period and without completing formal endangered species and cultural/historic site consultations with the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the State of Washington. After granting itself a waiver via the office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Donald Schregardus, the Navy is expected to sign a Record of Decision on Monday, November 9. This in effect gives the Navy permission to proceed with actions that require incidental take permits from federal wildlife agencies, and a determination from the State of Washington on potential harm to cultural and historic properties, without knowing what those impacts will be.

Contacts:

Dr. Allyson Brooks, State Historic Preservation Officer: 360-586-3066

John Mosher, Northwest Environmental manager for the U.S. Pacific Fleet: 360-257-3234

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Environment (Donald Schregardus): 703-695-5270

Karen Sullivan is the spokesperson for the West Coast Action Alliance and Olympic Forest Coalition on this topic. More information at:  http://westcoastactionalliance.org

Hundreds turn out for Navy Growler EIS Scoping Meeting in Port Townsend Thursday.

Hundreds of people from the North Olympic Peninsula came to Fort Worden in Port Townsend Thursday afternoon to hear the Navy explain their plans for expansion of the Growler air fleet. The Navy had subject matter experts with signage to help explain their plans, which in some cases did clarify issues. (more on that later). Additionally, the Navy provided scribes and the ability for people to get their comments logged to the official record of public comment.

US Navy EIS EA-18G Growler Jet Expansion EIS Public Comment Meeting at Fort Worden.

US Navy EIS EA-18G Growler Jet Expansion EIS Public Comment Meeting at Fort Worden. Photos by Al Bergstein

Opponents of the expansion were out in force, and had stations with question banks so people could ask knowledgeable questions. The opposition groups have a great deal of concern about noise pollution, jet pollution, the tie in of this expansion with the Electromagnetic warfare training that the Navy plans to use these planes to test over the west end of the Olympic National Park and Clallam County.

Some interesting questions that were answered were that the Navy has traditionally only scoped a radius of 10 miles from the base. We and the San Juans are about 15 miles away. It took petitioning our government representatives to get the Navy to wave the distance requirement for San Juan and Jefferson County. Speaking of that, many of our local elected officials were present.

Also, the Navy spokesperson was quite clear that the multiple EIS, EAs etc. that the Navy currently has moving, while easily seeming to be a tactic to throw off the civilian opposition to the expansion, in their minds is a work load issue. They just couldn’t take on all of them simultaneously.

Another question that was answered was that the planes are currently not funded in the military budget. It’s assumed they will be, but they could see funding cut at some level. It appears that the plan is for the maximum they want to add with the money they assume will be there.

There appear that are no EIS alternatives that are “no expansion”. The “No action” choice is being used as a ‘baseline’ as they call it, for the others, and the Navy claims it would not meet the goals of the DoD for electronic attack capability. To be clear, the Navy expects to expand their fleet here. The only possibility standing between that expansion is citizen opposition at all levels to change the goals, or have them find another field elsewhere. The Navy seems not interested in those options at all.

It is clear that these folks see their job to sell this expansion to us, as a simple matter economic savings by bringing all the planes and pilots here. Some of the people I spoke with live on the East Coast, have lived with Navy jet noise for years and see it as just the way the world works. It’s up to people here to make the Navy understand that expansion of this base, in a heavily populated area, is not something we have been able to vote on, and  that seems to be unstoppable, as the Navy themselves gives no alternative option to growing the base. While people who are openly anti-military attended the meeting, it seemed as if the bulk of the people are simply concerned with the growing noise pollution, threat to the environment, possible unknown health risks from these secret devices on the planes, and feel that it’s better suited to another, more remote base. One where the local population is much smaller, and spread away from the jets and their training.

So there you have it. It’s up to you to decide. They have presented their case. Do you want an expanding world of unmuffled jets, flying an expanded array of sorties throughout the day and night, or will you take some action now to try and put some rational limits on the local growth of this particular base? Do you want to continue to trade away our environment, both as it affects humans and the natural world around us? Do you think that people will continue to come  here to camp, fish and sail as the jet noise continues to increase, when they can choose to go elsewhere where it’s quieter? It’s not just about the environment, but it’s also about economic issues.

It is worth noting that we put up with a huge amount of Navy now, and have for decades. Indian Island, Bangor Sub Base and the ongoing closures of the Hood Canal Bridge which ties up commerce, harassment by Coast Guard of recreational sailors for what seems like practice on their part rather than any real concern, noise pollution of jets waking us at midnight, and unknown deaths and injuries to Orcas, whales and other sea life.  The Navy admits they kill sea mammals. It’s just a question of how many, not if they will or not.

The Navy sees this all as part of their job to protect us. They are nice people, many with families too. They feel very patriotic about their job and they should. But they work for us, not a bunch of shareholders and stock. We are the ones that would have to say, “thanks’ but we have enough Navy here now, and your plans don’t fit this place. You are not actually saving us money if your consequences impact our economy. We have a unique environment with endangered species, some which are impacted severely by noise. We are not some part of the country that has already been trashed, and has nowhere to go but up. We really are in the middle. We’ve lost a lot, but have a lot more to lose. We can go either down or up in our quality of life.  We have families that come here from all over the world, because it’s quiet and beautiful. They can go outside to fabulous mountains, rivers, lakes and the ocean, and expect peace and quiet. It’s not Seattle, or some other noisy big city. If they need to do this, they need to go somewhere much more remote. ”

It’s a long shot to take this on, but if you don’t, no one else will.

Letter to the Forest Service regarding the Navy Training Electronic Warfare Environmental Assessement

UPDATED FOR DECEMBER 1, 2016. Originally posted in 2014

Quick overview: Why is this an issue?

The DOD has stated they want permission from the Forest Service  to do this training.

To be clear, this is from the Forest Service EA on behalf of the Navy:

The Navy wants to run Electronic Warfare Training runs on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula, including over habitat for endangered Spotted Owls, towns such as Forks, areas very close to the Hoh River campgrounds, and generally all over the Peninsula’s west side.

From the Navy’s own documents:

-11.152 events per day
-2900 events per year. Current number in the Olympic MOA is 1200.
-Run up to 12 hours a day
-In use 45 minutes of each hour
-The equipment will be in use up to 260 days a year

The Navy claims that they will fly at a height no lower than 6000 feet. However, numerous eye witnesses from both inside the Olympic National Park and outside report that the Navy routinely flies much lower than that. Sometimes barely above tree top level.

The Navy’s own figures state that a jet flying at 1000 ft above ground level creates 113 decibels, which is far above the threshold for hearing damage.
So, 113 @ 1000 for one aircraft = 123 for two, and 128 for three. In other words, permanent damage instantly. (Twice as loud for two and an additional 50% louder for three.)
There are no answers, only questions at this point:

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to express my concern with substantive issues of  the Environmental Assessment being carried out by the Forest Service on behalf of the Navy’s Pacific NW Electronic Warfare Range.

There are number of issues that I am raising, starting with the 1988 DOD/Agriculture MOA:

DOD Department of Agriculture Master Agreement 1988 

  • DOD, Department of Agriculture (FS) Master Agreement on “Use of National Forest Service Lands For Military Activity” (1988)
    • As stated in this 1988 document: “Training activities on National Forest Service  Lands will be authorized when compatible with other uses and in conformity with applicable forest plan(s), provided that the Department of Defense determines and substantiates that lands under it’s administration are unsuitable or unusable.” 

I see nothing in the EA or the EIS that substantiates that the current lands in Eastern Washington or Idaho are unsuitable or unusable. In fact , It is clear on page 2-8 of the EA that Roosevelt and Okanagan are still possible to use. I see a case  made that it is too far for local pilots. But this is neither an unsuitable or unusable  argument as they are being used for this purpose now. Could the lands be used if necessary? The answer appears yes, but the Navy would prefer to do it in the Western Olympic Peninsula. That does not seem to meet the criteria as outlined in that foundational document between the DOD and the FS.

  • The 1988 agreement, noted above goes on to say that:
    • “This agreement does not apply to the airspace over National Forest System Lands unless directly associated with the land based training.”

Questions of overlooking the issue of aircraft

There is an implied issue that is not addressed in the current EA that I am commenting on, and seems critical to the EA.  IF there will be active flyovers of public land (USFS, ONF, WSDNR), and IF there will be active electronic engagement with mobile emitters then it seems that  potential adverse environmental impacts MUST be addressed in the EA. Any reasonable person would conclude that they are tightly coupled, and that one relies on the other, as they do in fact. Any attempt to suggest that these aerial activities are NOT a part of this Environmental Analysis and have been or are going to be addressed in a separate EIS are inexcusable considering potential adverse impacts to the human and natural environment.

Again, the airspace requirements for this EA are distinctly directly associated with the land based training, so while it is not addressed in the current EA, it is required by the 1988 Master Agreement to be considered in the EA and likely an EIS that would take into consideration both issues. That the Forest Service has not bound the airspace issues with the land based issues seems to be a significant oversight on behalf of the FS reviewer. Previous EISA entries from the DOD/Navy did not address this specific use of the airspace, which may significantly alter the altitude and noise impact to both the National Forest and the National Park. So the question I ask is “Why is it not bound to this EA?”

Also, the flight paths of these jets flying unmuffled at 1200 feet are not even shown on diagrams. What population areas, businesses and homes are going to be affected by these flights?

  • Section B of the 1988 Master Agreement states:
    • Military Training activities on Forest Service lands are actions that require the analysis of environmental impact in conformance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other statutory and regulatory requirements. The Department of Defense and the Department of Agriculture will cooperate to accomplish the appropriate NEPA compliance.

Questions of Noise

A question of whether the activities of the DOD are compatible with  other uses and conform with applicable forest management plans can be questioned, since hiking, fishing, camping and other human activities are expected to take place both on FS land and the adjacent Olympic National Park (ONP). The noise of the jets participating in the testing and training of the pilots, and directly associated with the land based training, flying at heights of 1200 feet, will be at decibel levels that are known to damage human hearing (greater than 80 decibels for example).

These planes, which are required to make deployment of the electronic gear being requested necessary, will be heard inside the Olympic National Park, in such locations as the Hoh River campground, and other campsites close to the deployed gear, according to the maps provided by the FS and Navy.

In earlier court cases, the National Park Service has found that snow plane noise (from planes landing in the snow in areas like Alaska) violated park standards. Has the Park Service weighed in on whether the noise of the unmuffled jets flying training sorties at 1200 feet will meet noise criteria in the areas of the National Park over which the jets will fly? And what about the noise levels generated adjacent to the Park? This has been successfully argued in court to be a violation of the Wilderness Act.

Questions of Fire 

There is no mention of possible fire, caused by either the jets themselves or the equipment. If a jet crashes, especially if it happens in late summer, what measures do the FS and the Navy expect to take to fight the subsequent fire?  This seems to be an oversight in the EA.

Quantities of training 

The DOD has stated they plan to do this training:

  • 11.152 events per day 
  • 2900 events per years. Current number in the Olympic MOA is 1200.
  • Run up to 12 hours a day
  • In use 45 minutes of each hour
  • The equipment will be in use up to 260 days a year
  • The Navy’s own figures state that a jet flying at 1000 ft above ground level creates 113 decibels, which is far above the threshold for hearing damage.
    • So, 113 @ 1000 for one aircraft = 123 for two, and 128 for three. In other words, permanent damage instantly. (Twice as loud for two and an additional 50% louder for three.)  

This cannot be construed to be “no harm” as exposing human and animal hearing to the directly associated unmuffled air training that is done in conjunction with the required land based equipment could cause human hearing impairment. There has been no Environmental Impact Statement done on the joint use of the two distinctly directly associated activities. I request that one be done.

A reasonable person who would live, work or recreate near such activity would not consider adding 260 days and 12 hours a day of unmuffled jet noise associated with this activity, along with the coming and goings of trucks at all hours of the day and night, to be “no significant impact”. So what was the criteria in establishing that ruling in the FONSI?

Question Of Conversion Of And Taking Of Private & Public Property 

An issue not addressed is the implied conversion of private property under the flight paths of these jets, in the vicinity of the transmitters. (Flight paths are not even considered in the EA) Citizens are being told that they will be living under a war training zone, that unmuffled jets may be going over their homes and businesses at 1200 feet as much as 12 hours a day and up to 45 minutes in those hours. Would they consider this an impact on their businesses and personal lives?

This seems to be a “taking” of the private property use, without properly addressing the issue of whether there is going to be a loss of value or reimbursement  to the homeowner, business person or property owner.  This kind of issue has been dealt with in many locales when flight paths in and out of airports brought jet traffic over homes. These homes often are purchased and destroyed. Seatac has two such locations, north and south of the runways.   When the Navy has created training ranges such as Yakima Firing Range, there was a condemning or purchase of the land there. This issue has not been raised in either the EIS nor the EA.

Loss of Wilderness Soundscape

The loss of wilderness soundscape over the ONP is also, per my comments above, a possible violation of the Wilderness Act. It could also be seen as a violation of NEPA because it appears there has been no adequate consultation with the Park Service prior to the EA nor documented on this issue in the EA.

Use of DNR Lands

It also appears that there are use issues with DNR lands in that vicinity, has that been documented somewhere other than this EA?

Loss of tourist trade

There are unknown losses that may occur due to tourist activities that may not happen due to the understanding by recreation users and others that low flying unmuffled jets are in the area. That is not addressed at all in the EA, nor the Navy’s EIS for the training areas. Are there similar locations in the Continental US that could be looked at for possible loss of incomes and tourist trade?

Issues with the Finding Of No Significance (FONSI) 

In the comments in the FONSI there is mention of having referred to the FS NW Forest Plan, but no mention of which sections of the FS NW Forest Plan the writer is referring to. Which ones is he referring to?

The FONSI appears to have been arrived at with no public input and insufficient scientific data, thus violating NEPA.

In the comments section of the FONSI there is no mention of jet aircraft in consideration of  the actions proposed on page EA-2.  However, the jet aircraft are required for this training. They are not a separate entity, but intrinsically part of the whole.  A reasonable person would assume that would be taking into consideration in this EA.

I request that the FS rewrite the EA to take into account the jet aircraft in use specifically for this training be done.The EIS that was originally done by the Navy regarding airspace did not consider or discuss this use, but was specifically calling out issues related to training at sea.

In the comments section of the FONSI the reviewer only considers the Navy’s needs in the alternatives, and not whether citizens who live and use the National Forests of the affected areas on the Olympic Peninsula would request an alternative.

In the comments section of the FONSI the reviewer states that there will be no effects on the human environment. Most reasonable people living, working or recreating on these lands would consider 200 training exercises a year requiring jets flying low enough to produce sound above the range of damage to human hearing to be a negative effect of any such activity.

IN CONCLUSION:

Given all these issues, I respectively suggest that the EA is inadequate in addressing the possible impacts to public health and safety, biological resources, Noise, Air Quality, and Visual Resources, along with the lack of proof that the use of Forest Service Lands by the Navy has not been adequately shown to adhere to the 1988 Master Agreement (referenced above), and wish to see it withdrawn and or rejected.

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