Updates – underwater pile-driving, ocean noise, comments

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A massive amount of pile driving is about to take place in Port Angeles harbor as the Navy gives us a tenfold construction increase. Pile driving noise carries 18 miles underwater. Wildlife, fisheries and the tourism economy will be adversely affected.

June 28, 2016 –  A lot is happening.

1. The US Forest Service has again delayed their decision on use of Navy mobile electronic warfare emitters in Olympic National Forest. Kim Crider, USFS Environmental Planner/Coordinator, said, “Our schedule has been delayed and the draft Decision Notice is not likely to be released until mid to late July at the soonest. You will be notified by email when the draft document is released for the 45-day Objection Period.”

2. 18 months of massive Navy pile-driving in Port Angeles harbor: The US Navy has quietly added 144 new pilings to its request for construction of facilities in Port Angeles harbor. These were not covered in the  January 2015 Environmental Assessment many of us commented on. It represents a tenfold increase in pile-driving, which can be heard for 18 miles underwater and is certain to drive marine mammals from the area. An application was filed late this month with the State and the US Army Corps of Engineers, and a comment period on that application is now open. Email your comments to brian.d.hooper@usace.army.mil and ecyrefedpermits@ecy.wa.gov. Tell them that when taken together, these projects rise to the impact level of a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and thus the certification or concurrence  from the two agencies should not be given until the Navy has complied with its legal obligations to the public. Separation of functionally and geographically connected projects for the purpose of avoiding a full public examination of the cumulative impacts is illegal, and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) case law has proven this again and again. Comment period closes July 23. To see a spreadsheet of upcoming Navy construction activity that was provided to a veterans organization by a Navy employee, click here. The 144 extra pilings are item #14.

3. NOAA’s Ocean Noise Strategy Roadmap comment period closes July 1. If you aren’t familiar with it, this news article from the Washington Post will help. You still have time to comment, and you can email them to Comment.ONS@noaa.gov. Be sure to put “ONS Roadmap Comments” in the subject line. Here are three comment letters from which you can borrow language:

West Coast Action Alliance joint comment letter with 14 organizations and individuals;

Olympic Park Associates comment letter; and

A joint comment letter from a group that formed after the showing of the movie “Sonic Sea.”

4. Resolutions are being passed from Alaska to the Pacific Northwest. The City of Cordova, Alaska, passed a resolution asking the Navy to locate its war games further offshore, to do them in the fall after peak animal migration and feeding times are over, and to refrain from using live ordnance or sonar in any Marine Protected Area, including NOAA Fisheries Marine Protected Areas, State Marine Protected Areas and Habitat Areas of Particular Concern. These are reasonable requests, but the Navy continues to ignore Alaskans as it does Washingtonians. In fact, the Navy has actually scheduled its next Alaskan war games during prime peak time for the Copper River salmon run. That’s akin to a stick in the eye. This 4-minute video shows what’s at stake.

Another resolution objecting to Navy noise was recently passed in Skagit County, Washington. Add this to recent resolutions passed in San Juan, Clallam and Jefferson County  — in fact, a whole slew of them from California to Alaska — and it’s becoming clear that public antipathy for the unwarranted and unnecessary expansion of war games into public lands, waters and the skies over our once-quiet communities is rising. Maybe one or two or five resolutions get ignored by the Navy, but there comes a point where they can no longer be ignored. Resolutions also serve as a tool to alert and educate people to what is happening. If you think a resolution ought to be passed by your local governing body, read the resolutions that have been passed so far, and help get more passed. A local citizens group is working on this for the Olympic Peninsula; if you want to help, contact us and we will put you in touch with them.

Orcas breaching

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