Did the US Navy Break Federal Laws to Push War Games Over National Forests? – Truth Out

The continuing saga of the Navy taking over more land, sea and air space, with the implied notion that they “own” it. We need a good lawyer out here that can stop this nonsense.  A good read by Truth-Out’s local writer Dahr Jamail.

“The Navy has an astonishing sense of entitlement to public lands and waters,” Sullivan said about how the Navy has approached the public’s concerns over its operations. “Northwest Training and testing range manager Kent Mathes told me last year after a public meeting, ‘We own the airspace and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.'”

As Truthout previously reported, if it gets its way, the Navy would be flying Growler jets – electronic attack aircraft that specialize in radar jamming – in 2,900 training exercises over wilderness, communities and cities across the Olympic Peninsula for 260 days per year, with exercises lasting up to 16 hours per day. Naval surface fleet ships will also be participating by homing in on ground-based emitters – a topic that was never discussed in the Navy’s environmental assessment.

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/33387-us-navy-allegedly-broke-federal-laws-to-push-forward-electromagnetic-war-training-over-national-forests

Protecting The Olympic National Park From Noise Pollution- Outside Magazine

Welcome to the Quietest Square Inch in the U.S.

And meet the man who’s made it his mission to keep it that way

Outside Magazine profiles Gordon Hempton, the acoustic ecologist who is documenting the “quietest place in the US”. His work has identified the Hoh River Valley as the quietest place in the US, and by doing so, he has put himself squarely into the controversy over the Navy’s plan to expand the use of the airspace over it for what the Navy themselves claim could be around the clock training sorties.

A must read for any of us concerned about protecting the silence that we cherish in our environment out here on the Peninsula.

http://www.outsideonline.com/2000721/americas-quietest-square-inch-and-preserving-natural-sounds

A Record-Breaking No-Snow Year for the Olympics – Olympic Park Associates

If you think we can be a bit smug about California’s ongoing drought, think again. We are experiencing, this year, an unprecedented lack of snow in the exact places that need to have it. We are entering uncharted territory. By local author, Tim McNulty.

The data from Olympic National Park’s May 1, 2015, snow survey are in and the results are alarming. All snow survey and automated Snotel sites in the park were empty of snow, indicating a zero percent snowpack.

Snow remains on the higher peaks, but it is the mountain basin snow sites that indicate how much moisture will be available for rivers, water supplies, and salmon later in the summer. May is a time when the Olympic snowpack is typically near its peak.

Park science technician Bill Baccus, who monitors the snowpack monthly throughout the spring, points to Cox Valley, at the head of Morse Creek, as an example. Most years, the site would have over six-and-a-half feet of snow in May. This year the site was bare.

http://www.olympicparkassociates.org/index.html

National parks set attendance record for 2014; Olympic 6th most-visited national park in system – PDN

A good reason to not allow the Navy to expand their warfare simulations over the west end of the Olympic National Park, including the Hoh River, and Lake Quinault.

The national park system in the United States has a new attendance record for 2014. More than 290 million people visited one of the many national parks or recreational areas in the country. The old attendance record was set in 1999 when more than 287 million people visited the park system.  The 2014 record was an increase from 2013 by 7 percent, or 19 million.  The actual attendance for 2014 was 292,800,082 million people, 3,243,872 of whom visited Olympic National Park. (Peninsula Daily News)

http://peninsuladailynews.com/article/20150218/NEWS/150219955/national-parks-set-attendance-record-for-2014-olympic-6th-most

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.

Great new film from Olympic National Park

Check this out. A good story on the Olympic Coast and Ocean Acidification and global warming.

Coastal ecologist Dr. Steve Fradkin is a National Park Service scientist who spends his days in the intertidal zone of Olympic National Park. There, a spectacular diversity of plants and animals interact to form a living, breathing ecosystem that is an especially sensitive indicator of environmental health. Climate change is beginning to take its toll on this fragile ecosystem, but as long as Steve gets a good cup of coffee, he’ll be out there monitoring the changes and figuring out what we as humans can do to help.

Climate change will have many of its first impacts to our coasts and intertidal communities. This film highlights Dr. Steven Fradkin, coastal ecologist at Olympic National Park and his work monitoring intertidal life.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZt0OS12ty0#t=563

Olympic National Park seeks comments on wilderness stewardship plan options – PDN and OFC

Your opportunity to tell the ONP what changes you would like to see to their Wilderness Plan.

The public is invited to mix and match elements of four preliminary alternatives outlined for managing wilderness in Olympic National Park. Park staff are seeking public input on preliminary alternatives for the park’s first Wilderness Stewardship Plan before it puts together its draft environmental impact statement. The final plan, expected to be put into effect in late 2015, will guide management of most of the 922,650-acre park for the next 15 to 20 years. Comment can be made in person at meetings in Port Angeles and Forks this week and in Port Townsend next week. Comments also can be made in writing by mail or online by May 17. Arwyn Rice and Leah Leach report. (Peninsula Daily News)

Read the rest of the story.

http://peninsuladailynews.com/article/20140317/news/303179990/olympic-national-park-seeks-comments-on-wilderness-stewardship-plan

From the Olympic Forest Coalition a bit more detailed viewpoint. The National Park Service has released a range of preliminary draft alternatives for the Olympic National Park Wilderness Stewardship Plan. The preliminary draft alternatives were designed to reflect key topics raised during the initial public scoping process last spring. “The public’s review and comment at this key stage of the planning process will ensure that we are developing the best possible future for the Olympic Wilderness,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. “Moreover, we want to ensure that we have accurately heard and addressed the public’s comments as we move forward in developing the plan.” This planning process applies only to lands within Olympic National Park and when complete, will guide the preservation, management and use of the park’s wilderness area. “In accordance with the Wilderness Act of 1964, the goal of this wilderness stewardship plan is to restore, protect and enhance the overall wilderness character of the wilderness area within Olympic National Park,” Creachbaum emphasized. The preliminary draft alternatives and maps, along with extensive background information and a copy of the public comments submitted during last year’s public scoping period, can be reviewed online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/olymwild. Comments may also be submitted at that website. Six public workshops will be offered and are scheduled as follows:

Ninety-five percent of Olympic National Park was designated as wilderness in 1988, and is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. The Wilderness Act of 1964 established the National Wilderness Preservation System and established a policy for the protection of wilderness resources for public use and enjoyment. For more information or to be added to the Olympic National Park Wilderness Stewardship Plan, people should visit http://parkplanning.nps.gov/olymwild or call the park at 360-565-3004.

Here is the full document if you are interested:

ONP Draft Alternate

 

Six public workshops will be offered and are scheduled as follows:

Tues., March 18, 2014

5:00-7:00 p.m.

Port Angeles Library

2210 S. Peabody St.

Port Angeles, Wash.

Phone: 360-417-8500

Wed., March 19, 2014

5:00-7:00 p.m.

Dept. of Natural Resources

411 Tillicum Lane

Forks, Wash.

Phone: 360-374-2800

Mon., March 24, 2014

5:00-7:00 p.m.

Cotton Building

607 Water Street

Port Townsend, Wash.

Phone: 360-379-4412

Wed., March 26, 2014

5:00-7:00 p.m.

Quinault Lake School

Amanda Park, Wash.

Phone: 360-288-2260

 

Tues., April 1, 2014

5:00-7:00 p.m.

Civic Center (Meeting Room 1)

525 W. Cota St.

Shelton, Wash.

Phone: 360-426-4441

Thurs., April 3, 2014

5:00-7:00 p.m.

Seattle Public Library

Wright/Ketcham Room; Level 4, Room 2

1000 4th Ave., Seattle, Wash.

Phone: 206-386-4636

Public comments may also be mailed or delivered to:

Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum

Attn: Wilderness Stewardship Plan
Olympic National Park
600 E Park Ave
Port Angeles WA 98362-6757

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