November 7, 2016 – Huge Expansion of Navy Activities Follows Record of Decision. The Navy announced that it will increase training and testing of bombs, torpedoes, explosives, sonar, and secret equipment in our beautiful Northwest waters. Changes include:
New biennial training exercises conducted in the offshore area;
Biennial mine warfare exercises in Puget Sound;
Testing of undersea systems, subsystems and components in Puget Sound;
Testing of “unique undersea hardware” and fixtures;
Resumption of testing activities at the Carr Inlet (Alaska) Operations Area;
Hundreds of sonar blasts from pierside maintenance and life cycle testing;
More ship activity;
Maritime security operations that will likely interact negatively with recreational boating and commercial fishing communities.
On October 31, 2016 the Navy signed its Record of Decision on the Northwest Training and Testing EIS, despite overwhelming public opposition. Calling their massive increases “adjustments,” they pushed their agenda over the objections of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the State of Washington’s Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. They pushed their way through despite leaked emails that showed clear intent to break the law, despite public objection to Washington’s massive Navy SuperPac, and without completing legally required consultation with a Native American Indian Tribe.
They did it despite the toxic legacy they will leave to future generations, despite concerns expressed by UNESCO, pleas from the public, and despite the public learning of the fraudulent process that let them get away with driving massive numbers of pilings in Puget Sound, 5,300 in all. The hubris is breathtaking. Brushing away American citizens as if we are little more than future collateral damage, they claim to have “carefully weighed” the factors in this decision, but the elephant in this ugly room is the fact that this decision was actually made many years ago, funds were committed long before the public process ever began, and what the public thinks matters to the Navy about as much as a gnat’s buzz. This Record of Decision is nothing more than retrofitted window dressing. Which begs the question: what decisions have been made that public “process” will be the window-dressing for in the future?
This behavior is not new. The Navy was named the “Top Polluter in Puget Sound“ in 1998, and was lambasted for spilling 181,453 gallons in seven years around US ports, averaging a spill every two days. Maybe they’re more careful with oil now, but we are looking at hundreds of thousands of “expended materials” made of extremely toxic materials in Northwest waters over the next few years, which will affect our salmon, tourism and other resources that are the cornerstones of our economy.
This is the point where most of us want to wring our hands and give up. But consider this: Do serving men and women really want to see the millions of people their agency tramples unnecessarily, not just in this country but around the world, so alienated? Does the entire Navy really want to cultivate a reservoir of ill will from the agencies it intimidates and bullies? We doubt it. So don’t give up, even though saying “make your voice heard” sounds a little hollow right now.
Is it ever going to be possible to once again say the Navy is a good neighbor? Maybe not, but giving up will ensure that they continue to destroy the quiet soundscapes, richly diverse waters, and strong economies of communities in the Pacific Northwest. And that’s unacceptable at any price.