Even on a sunny day, it’s not unusual for the skies to rumble as I walk on the beach near my Lopez Island home. Much of the island is in the flight pattern of EA 18G “Growler” supersonic jet warplanes flying from nearby Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI). If the Navy gets its way, the Growlers—electronic attack aircraft that specialize in radar jamming—will increase in number. Additionally, the Navy plans for the jets to participate in 2,900 training exercises over an Electronic Warfare Range that includes wilderness, communities, and cities across Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
The Navy claims that this project (with an $11.5 million price tag) will have “no significant impact” on the environment. In response to community opposition, however, the U.S. Forest Service is accepting public comment until November 28. I’m opposed to this proposal for many reasons, and I’ve sent the letter below to Forest Environmental Coordinator Greg Wahl.
|Photo by Dahr Jamail, “Truthout”|
The electronic warfare training would include the use of large RV-sized trucks equipped with electromagnetic-generating equipment along 14 sites in Olympic National Forest and several along the boundary of Olympic National Park. While those trucks wouldn’t be allowed inside the Park, the airspace above the Park will be rumbling with squadrons of noisy warplanes practicing their maneuvers for up to 16 hours per day, 260 days a year. The Navy hasn’t provided any relevant studies to prove no long-term effects to flora and fauna for the proposed 4,680 hours per year of exposure to the jet noise or the electromagnetic radiation from the mobile emitters. The US Forest Service has accepted the Navy’s claim of “no significant impact” and has decided to grant the Navy a long-term permit to use our National Forests for the mobile emitters.
The Forest Service is inviting public input on its decision to grant the permit.
Public comments can be emailed to Forest Service environmental coordinator Greg Wahl at firstname.lastname@example.org at 1835 Black Lake Blvd. S.W., Olympia, WA 98512. Comments also can be submitted electronically at https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/CommentInput?Project=42759. I did both; here’s mine.
Dear Greg Wahl,
I’m writing to urge you to reverse your decision to grant the Navy a long-term permit to use the Olympic National Forest for Electronic Warfare Training. I believe this project will result in very real harmful effects— both to humans and to wildlife— from human-made electromagnetic fields. Electronic Warfare Training is not consistent with the public purposes for which national forests are reserved.
The Navy has violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in drafting its Environmental Assessment (EA) by not using the most recent and “best available science” to conclude that there will be “No Significant Impact” from this project. The Navy’s supporting science documents are sorely outdated. Thousands of recent, peer-reviewed studies suggest we can expect harmful effects from this project.
Federal Law requires that the Navy fully analyze and disclose all potential impacts—direct, indirect and cumulative—that this project could have. In particular, the EA did not address: noise from the jets involved in the training; pollution, both chemical and electromagnetic, resulting from the warplanes; the effects of this project on the critical habitat and protected sanctuary for wildlife that these pristine coastal regions and forests provide; the economic and social impacts on this area, long-used by millions of visitors every year for recreation and wilderness experiences.
Finally, if the Forest Service grants this permit, it is in violation of its own management plan and the National Forest Management Act. The Department of Defense does not have the right to override the Forest Service’s own management plan and this act.
Thank you in advance for consideration of my comments. I hope that the concerns raised by many residents in the region will convince you to rescind the permit for the Navy to engage in Electronic Warfare Training on Olympic National Forest lands.