News from June – December 2015

ONP alpine

UPDATE January 3, 2016: The Forest Service’s latest Schedule of Proposed Actions states that the decision on the Electronic Warfare Range is now expected in June 2016, with implementation (permit granted) in July. No further information at this time. 

December 22, 2015 – Forest Service slips schedule again: A conversation with the Forest Service’s point of contact for the establishment of an Electronic Warfare Range on the Olympic Peninsula revealed that the schedule has now “slipped to early February” for the release of a new EA (Environmental Assessment) by the Forest Service, that will closely mirror the Navy’s EA of August 2014. This EA and its “draft final decision” will trigger an objection/comment period of up to 45 days in which the FS will take comments. The only comments they’ll consider are those from people who commented on this before, on issues previously raised, so feel free to read and use material from comment letters collected here.

Sportsman_and_tourist_map_of_Olympic_peninsula,_Washington_(76857)

Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, a sportsman’s paradise, is under threat of becoming an Electronic Warfare Range and a military playground.

When that comment period finally opens, do not let this limitation stop you from commenting. The lame public process of last year demands a vigorous response from the public this time around. Following that, the FS will have up to 45 days to consider and respond to public comments, and another 30 days if they want it. The reviewing officer will be Olympic National Forest’s Supervisor, Reta Laford, but she won’t sign the decision. The last step will be the signing of a Finding of No Significant Impact, by District Ranger Dean Millett.

sea lion public domain

Sea lion. One of many marine mammal species that will be affected.

Remember, the Navy justified its Finding of No Significant Impact by retrofitting an old Biological Opinion from 2010 to its EA. That document, which did not cover activities on the Olympic Peninsula, has expired, and the Forest Service, which did no independent investigation to validate the Navy’s 2014 finding, will have to show how it now comes to the same conclusion the Navy did. The only way it could do this is to exclude many concerns raised by the public from consideration. The Forest Service is prohibited by law from allowing another agency to speak for it on matters of impacts to the resources it manages. Furthermore, it is illegal to “segment” these public processes for the purpose of preventing a holistic evaluation of all impacts. Remember that the Navy’s EA did not allow the public to evaluate the impacts from Navy jets overhead, impacts that will be triggered by issuance of the permits to drive mobile emitters on national forest roads. That EA covered only impacts from the emitter vehicles, such as generator noise, and dismissed all concerns about jet noise, pollution, and electromagnetic radiation. We will all need to be aware of what’s in the Forest Service’s new EA.

NPS-public-domain-Olympic-rain-forest

The US Forest Service also holds the national record for the number of NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) lawsuits: As we wait for an onslaught of events to happen in the next few weeks, namely:

  1. The Fish and Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion, which is a 200-page report on the endangered species consultation with the Navy for its latest EIS on Northwest Training and Testing;
  1. The Navy’s final Record of Decision for Northwest Training and Testing (despite no public comment period) and increased sonar and explosive activities in our waters;
  1. The Forest Service’s issuance of a draft Record of Decision (with comment period) on the Navy’s use of national forest roads for Electronic Warfare,
  1. The Navy’s continued stealth use of public roads on the Olympic Peninsula (outside national forest boundaries) for electronic warfare training;
  1. The Navy’s current comment period to end, on its proposal to build its “forward staging area” for submarines and escort vessels at Port Angeles, which happens to be the second EA on the same project in one year (first EA, January 2015);
  1. More news from the Army’s planned combat helicopter training in the Cascades and Southwest Washington, its plans to fire rockets into South Puget Sound, and the Air Force’s plans for training in the Olympic National Forest right at the boundaries of Olympic National Park;

One might be forgiven for wondering if the quiet piece of paradise we’ve all known as Western Washington is being turned into a giant military playground. As we worry and wait, it’s worth knowing that the Forest Service holds some sort of record in the Hall of Shame for being sued more than any other federal agency, by public interest groups, Tribes, individual citizens, and business groups, over the way it conducts NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) reviews of impacts. Here are some facts:

In 2013, the Forest Service had 28 of 96 NEPA lawsuits spread across 36 federal agencies, or 29% of the total. Are they doing a good job with NEPA? You be the judge. Here are the statistics for the last 13 years, from the NEPA.gov web site, which tracks litigation across all federal agencies:

2012: 25 of 88 NEPA lawsuits, or 28%.

2011: 25 of 94, or 27%.

2010: 18 of 87, or 20%

2009: 43 of 97, or 44%

2008: 46 of 132, or 35%

2007: 40 of 86, or 47%

2006: 30 of 108, or 28%

2005: 50 of 118, or 43%

2004: 76 of 167, or 46%

2003: 66 of 140,or 47%

2002: 40 of 148, or 27%

2001: 40 of 136, or 29%.

CA RL frog ONP pub domain

California Red-legged frog, a rare species found on the Olympic Peninsula. It is federally listed as threatened throughout its range in California. It became famous for being the frog featured in Mark Twain’s short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

The Forest Service undoubtedly knows that its shameful record is not likely to be broken any time soon, because it looks like they’re going to give the Navy a permit to conduct Electronic Warfare, despite massive public opposition, no research of their own to back up the Navy’s claims, and multiple misleading claims made in public meetings.

Few would disagree with the idea that it’s not unpatriotic to ask our own government to follow its own laws. The Forest Service must not be bullied by the Navy into violating the law. And don’t forget that America’s armed services are still legally under civilian control. Let’s keep reminding them of that, too.


 

December 10, 2015 – Kafka would have been pleased to write this story.

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llustration by Jiri Sliva.

Unfortunately, it’s not fiction. As you know if you have been reading this blog, the Navy is plowing ahead with its plans for our region, heedless of legal requirements that are supposed to give the public a fair shake in decision-making. It has thrown NOAA, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the State of Washington, under the bus. A call on Monday to the Fish and Wildlife Service revealed that the endangered species consultation is still not finished, though the Navy announced that it plans to sign its Record of Decision anyway, by year’s end. This would be the equivalent of all of us saying, “Let’s drive in the dark without headlights, we’re certain we won’t hit anything.”

The latest bizarre note in this Wagnerian symphony comes from a December 9 letter written by the Navy in response to the November 19 letter from the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (See Nov 20 post.) The Advisory Council’s letter had admonished the Navy for abruptly terminating an open consultation with the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO, pronounced “Shippo”) to ascertain whether Navy activities will harm cultural and historic sites. As you may recall, there was disagreement between the Navy and the State of Washington over the definition of the Area of Potential Effect (APE), meaning the SHPO believed that the Navy’s actions should have been evaluated together, not separately. The Navy insists everything is separate, which they do frequently in order to avoid evaluating the full scope of impacts. To avoid having to deal with the State’s dissent, the Navy simply slammed the door in their faces with this email and this letter, on November 6.

The Navy’s December 9 letter takes logic for a long walk off a short pier. To wit: Because the Pearl Harbor, Hawaii office claims it did not receive any correspondence from the SHPO during a 30-day review period that closed August 28, (which by the way nobody knew about,) the State had thus defaulted on the consultation, giving the Navy the right to close it. This reasoning quickly comes apart when presented with proof that on October 7, the Navy invited not just the SHPO but Governor Inslee’s policy staff, to a meeting, as shown in this Google Calendar and other materials obtained from the State via a public open records request.

10-7 Google Calendar request Oct 7 2015

Calendar entry from Navy showing consultation was still open. (Click to enlarge)

So, why would the Navy waste the State’s time and insult the Governor’s staff if the consultation had already been closed? Because it wasn’t closed. The consultation was still very much open, as shown not only in the timeline below, but in the record of consultation attached at the end of the December 9 letter:

  • Sept 1 – Navy arranges a meeting with State; series of emails. Note the email from the State on Sept 1 asking for an extension of the review period, and the response from the Navy that it was granted.
  • October 7 – Google Calendar (above, click to enlarge) from Navy indicates meeting date.
  • Nov. 6 – Navy sends SHPO an email with this attached letter saying consultation is “complete.”
  • Nov. 6 – Within 20 Minutes, SHPO responds with this email.
  • Nov. 6 – By early afternoon, SHPO responds to Navy formally with this letter.
  • Nov. 6 – Captain Michael Nortier, commanding officer at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, calls the Governor’s office to apologize, saying he didn’t know the Pearl Harbor office was going to do that.
  • December 9 – Navy letter with record of consultations attached. Anyone reading the list of multiple communications over many months would have to wonder, why was the Navy stringing the State along if consultation was closed, and why didn’t they just tell the State back in August?

If the Navy’s Pearl Harbor office did not know the consultation was still open, then the Navy should be embarrassed enough to apologize to the State and re-open it. If the Pearl Harbor office knew the consultation was still open but still chose to throw the State of Washington as well as their own Captain Nortier and the Whidbey Island staff under the bus, then they should be ashamed of themselves. While the West Coast Action Alliance has been critical of Captain Nortier in the past, no senior naval officer deserves to be treated this way by his own agency, and the Navy’s bad behavior toward a Governor who has treated them fairly is unprecedented.

Will the State let this pass? We doubt it, and will keep you informed as events transpire. This game is NOT over.

OPWashingtonMap1

While Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is a major focus of effort, military expansion into public lands and waters is occurring on a national scale. See previous post.


 

November 30, 2015 – Maps show nationwide scope of militarization of public lands and waters:  In this map, available in large scale here,

Military map - FSEEE

…accompanying a recent article by Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, called “National Forest Battle Zones,”you will see a portion of the extent of military activities in our national forests. In one rather egregious example, in Florida’s Ocala National Forest, the Pinecastle Bombing Range is a fenced 5,760 acre area, with the eastern edge of the range located about 2 miles west of State Road 19 and Camp Ocala campgrounds, and one-half mile west of the Farles Lake campground. That area gets pummeled by about 20,000 bombs per year.

Does anyone think militarization at this scale was what Theodore Roosevelt had in mind when he transferred the Forest Service to the Department of Agriculture in 1905? 

In the map below, you will see the extent of US Navy activities in the Atlantic. On November 12 the Navy announced its intent to prepare an EIS for Atlantic Fleet Testing and Training in this area:

Atlantic area boundaries

Navy map of Atlantic warfare training area.

Please note that the U.S. Navy “study area” in purple, above, is where the warfare testing exercises are now taking place. The items marked in orange are areas where smaller warfare testing ranges are located and are in full military operations at this time. The dotted area noted as the Testing Range Boundary is just one small segment of the overall ongoing warfare testing and training range.

The estimate for the total number of “takes to marine mammals and sea turtles for its activities is 27 million. NBC News reported, “The Navy estimates that its activities could inadvertently kill 186 whales and dolphins off the East Coast and 155 off Hawaii and Southern California, mostly from explosives. It calculates more than 11,000 serious injuries off the East Coast and 2,000 off Hawaii and Southern California, along with nearly 2 million minor injuries, such as temporary hearing loss, off each coast. It also predicts marine mammals might change their behavior — such as swimming in a different direction — in 27 million instances.”

With that many instances, they’re talking about potential effects for some species at population levels.

“Take” includes a range of harmful effects that can go from behavior changes like avoidance of noise, to death. But think about it: you don’t have to blow up a fin whale or a marbled murrelet to kill it. You can damage its hearing enough to prevent it from finding food, or avoiding predators, and you can make enough noise to drive it from vital feeding areas until it starves to death. And then you can claim that because the damage wasn’t immediately observable, that you were not the cause of harm. Many of the whales and seabirds washing up on beaches in the past year have been emaciated. While climate change is likely playing a major role in food scarcity, why is no one questioning the fact that the added stress from noise made by Navy ships operating with sonar and explosives in prime habitats during peak times (the Navy has refused to change their schedules to non-peak times) might be a contributing factor?

So, when we read recently that NOAA has given the green light to Navy activities in the Pacific Northwest because its regulations are “sufficient to protect” these species, maybe we shouldn’t take that as a wholesale truth. Maybe we should ask questions about these wildlife agencies, whose funding is like poverty compared to the Navy’s, and whose biologists try to do their jobs under intense pressure, and whose supervisors too often get overruled by political appointees. After all, the Navy, which won’t let federally trained wildlife observers aboard their ships (but does have civilian fitness trainers aboard) just told the State of Washington to buzz off and hasn’t reinitiated consultation as requested by the President’s Advisory Council, so why would it hesitate to say buzz off to the rest of us?

dolphins


 

USFWS Spotted_Owl_and_Marbled_Murrelet_Habitat

Olympic National Forest will be the template for military warfare encroachment in other national forests unless we the people stop it.

November 28, 2015 – Update on Forest Service timeline:  A recent call to Forest Service Point of Contact Greg Wahl for an update on the electronic warfare scheme for the Olympic Peninsula has revealed the following:

  • A “new timeline” for the decision to allow the Navy to drive and park at least three truck-mounted electronic warfare emitters in Olympic National Forest is now slated “before the end of this year,” meaning by late December. Documents will be posted on the Forest Service’s web site here.
  • The actual “draft final decision” is now expected to be issued in January, with a 45 day “objection period” open only to those who “filed written comments” during the Forest Service’s official public comment process last year.  Mr Wahl advised going online to their web site to look up the comments “…if you want to see who that includes.” (The FS reading room site is here.) He said they received about 3000 comments, but in reality there were 3300, and another 700 that came in after the Nov. 28, 2014 deadline. What they received and what they accepted are two different things.
  • According to Mr. Wahl, the delays in moving along have been caused by an analysis and response to the issues raised in the comments. The Forest Service hopes to have that analysis/response completed and released along with with their draft final decision. They will not respond to individual comments, but rather to the issues raised, since many comments said similar things.
  • Mr Wahl said to “…expect a very similar EA to the original.” Meaning another Environmental Assessment like the bogus one Navy produced is likely, but with everything the public has questioned somehow justified as legal, ethical and not harmful. Mr Wahl further stated that they’ve been getting a lot of “interest and involvement” on this issue from high levels at the Forest Service and Navy. What exactly does that mean?

Don’t forget that the Forest Service issued at least four temporary special use permits between 2010 and 2014, to let the Navy use their roads to drive prototype mobile emitters and conduct electronic warfare. If there is a single member of the public who was either aware of this at the time, or who commented on any public process associated with these permits, please let us know, because if you click the above link you will also discover that the Navy has evidently been using public roads all over the Olympic Peninsula for electronic warfare testing and training since 2010 without the public’s knowledge. The Forest Service refused to provide this writer with the notices and public comments they received for those four temporary permits.

Orca breaching - NOAA public domain

The endangered Southern Resident Orca population is at risk from navy sonar and explosives.

You may recall that the Navy used an out of date 2010 Biological Opinion from the Fish and Wildlife Service that didn’t address the Olympic Peninsula, to justify impacts in their 2014 Environmental Assessment on driving mobile emitters on Olympic National Forest roads. This of course was unethical if not downright illegal. You don’t retrofit old documents to justify new impacts, especially if those impacts were never evaluated in the old document. And you don’t interfere with the work of biologists who are evaluating potential impacts.

The Navy has recently been “very interested and involved” in the Biological Opinions from both NOAA and the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Though we haven’t seen the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion yet, the one from NOAA, in its section called “Mortality and Injury from Explosives” (page 407) uses lab data cited on injuries from impulse sound tests with lab animals: mice, rats, dogs, pigs, sheep and other species. It then infers similar effects to marine mammals. The problem with this is that none of the lab animals live in water or use sound to navigate, find food, find each other, or detect predators in remotely the same way that marine species do. Therefore, all inferences about harm from using such data are guesswork. 

NOAA’s Biological Opinion also states that despite the efforts to position a dive boat between a pod of long-beaked dolphins and a test explosion near San Diego, four dolphins were killed. (page 394.)  NOAA goes on to conclude that “These dolphin mortalities are the only known occurrence of a Navy training event involving impulsive energy (underwater detonation) that has resulted in injury to a marine mammal,” and to further conclude that this is a “rare occurrence.” The problem with that statement is that animals that are killed or injured in water tend to be extremely hard to observe, and that injured animals tend to swim away from the source of injury. One might logically expect only a small subset of injured or killed animals to be observable. NOAA compared the contribution of the Navy’s impacts to those caused by commercial ship strikes and strandings, and claimed that the Navy’s contribution was  not significant. But, news flash:  commercial ships don’t use sonar at 245 dB, and they don’t tend to set off bombs.

We will have more on the NOAA Biological Opinion and will look for the one from the Fish and Wildlife Service when it is released. And we will try to keep you up to date with the Forest Service’s documents as well.


 

ACHP logo

The President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) logo.

November 20, 2015 – President’s Advisory Council takes Navy to task for shoddy practices: The President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, or ACHP, has written a letter to the U.S. Navy that is critical of the way the Navy abruptly and unexpectedly terminated its consultation on November 6 with Washington’s State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO, pronounced “Shippo.”) This consultation is legally required under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

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Olympic National Park sea stacks are rich with birds above the surface, and fish below it. But they may not be for long.

In addition, the letter details a number of flaws in the way the Navy conducted the process:

  1. By shuffling the assignment of “designated contacts” among Washington DC, Whidbey Island and Hawaii instead of having one only, the Navy broke the rules and caused confusion in State offices; the SHPO had already lodged her concerns with one contact, but the others evidently didn’t get them; thus, while the SHPO was still actively consulting with the Navy, they sent her this email from DC with its attached letter from Hawaii, saying, “You raised no objections.” Which of course was a false claim. The letter and email were followed by an apology from Whidbey Island saying, “We’re sorry, we didn’t know they were going to do that.” Apology notwithstanding, it was a done deal; the Navy refused to re-open consultation and the State, to put it mildly, has not been pleased about it.
  2. The Navy waited too long before initiating consultation with the State. They waited until last spring, very late in the ongoing NEPA process, thus not allowing the SHPO to get answers she needed to her many questions, in order to do her job. When it looked like she wasn’t going to agree with them, they abruptly terminated consultation. Problem solved.
  3. The Navy appears to have ignored Tribal concerns, too. In this correspondence between the Navy and the SHPO, note on the 18th page (a July 20 letter from the Navy) where the Navy admits that they did receive, at a meeting, expressions of serious concern on a number of things, by a Tribal Historic Preservation Officer from one of the 26 Tribes the Navy claims to have contacted. The problem is that because the Tribe did not formally identify or define the specific boundaries of historic properties of traditional religious or cultural importance, or make them eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, the Navy determined that “the proposed NWTT training and testing undertaking will result in No Adverse Impact on Historic Properties.” Nice, huh. It’s also worth noting that the difference between the date on the Navy’s letter and the “Received” date stamped on it by the State is more than two weeks.
  4. ACHP has recommended that the Navy re-open consultation with the State. This would be the honorable choice.

Sadly, “honorable” is not a word that’s easily associated with the way the Navy has treated the public lately. Let’s recount who else besides John and Jane Q. Public has been ignored, dissed or treated disingenuously:

  1. Local, State and National elected officials – just look at the comment letters. You may also know that the Navy ignored a recent request by a sitting United States Congressman, for a noise study under the auspices of the Federal Interagency Committee on Aircraft Noise (FICAN.)
  2. Comments from individuals and groups.
  3. Scientists.
  4. The State of Washington’s Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.
  5. It is worth noting that Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark, who wrote this amazing letter in February 2015, is not only NOT being ignored, he is coming under severe pressure from the Department of Defense to reverse his position.
  6. Federal wildlife agencies. Neither of the two required endangered species consultations was complete when the EIS was published, and although NOAA has given the navy its permit for at-sea activities, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s consultation is still not finished.
  7. And now, Tribes.

Welcome to the club, everyone.

puzzled


 

Orcas

Orcas, or killer whales, are a totemic species of the Pacific Northwest. Photo: NOAA

November 16, 2015Navy gets its permits to harm whales and other marine species for at-sea testing and training:  NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service has just granted the Navy two Letters of Authorization, which are permits to harm certain numbers of threatened and endangered whales, dolphins, sea turtles and other marine species throughout Pacific Northwest waters; one permit is for harm caused by testing of explosives and sonar and the other is for harm caused by training activities. These Letters of Authorization, or “LOAs,” are worth reading because each spells out how many individuals of each species may be harmed. It also means mean that NOAA has completed its Biological Opinion, which is usually a 200-page report; however, that much-anticipated document has not been made available by the Navy to the public. [UPDATE: Here it is, on NOAA’s site.] The US Fish and Wildlife Service must also complete its Biological Opinion, on potential harm to the Northern Spotted Owl, Marbled Murrelet, Cutthroat Trout and other species, and the Navy is expecting a permit in similar fashion as the one from NOAA.

The public has a right to evaluate and comment on impacts described the Biological Opinions from both NOAA and the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Navy should open a comment period for the public. As you know, the Navy abruptly terminated its consultation with the State of Washington on November 6. State officials were miffed.

Because of public outcry last week over lack of completion of consultations with federal and state agencies, the Navy has delayed the signing of its Record of Decision on the Northwest Training and Testing EIS until year’s end. So with all that time on their hands, why can’t they open a proper public comment period?

The Navy applied to NOAA for its permit to harm endangered and threatened species back in April 2015, long before they identified to the public their selected and preferred alternative for activities. This eliminated the public’s ability to evaluate alternatives and thus understand the potential levels of harm to marine species, and it amounts to a retrofitting of the NEPA process to justify decisions long made. That’s illegal. Add to that no public comment period upon releasing the most recent EIS, and it’s clear the Navy is not being honest with us.

And another thing – despite agreeing in September, to create safe havens for marine mammals that protect them from sonar’s harmful effects in Southern California and Hawaii waters, the Navy is plowing ahead with its plans as if no safe havens are possible in the Pacific Northwest. In Alaska they have refused to move their testing and training activities to times that are not peak for animals, and to areas where the animals don’t gather to feed. They have ignored pleas from fishermen and tribes whose livelihoods depend on healthy fisheries. They refuse to communicate honestly with the public, despite efforts from scientists to learn what the Navy is actually doing.

It would also seem that NOAA is acting illogically: In its recent Record of Decision to grant the Navy these permits, it uses an EIS for the Marianas Islands on the far side of the Pacific for support instead of the closer-to-home EIS for Hawaii and Southern California. Why would it do that? The court ruled that the same Navy activities were harmful to threatened and endangered species in Hawaii and Southern California. Therefore, NOAA used another baseline that has not been litigated. Click the above link and read the title and sub-head. It makes no sense to use data from 4,000 miles away instead of from an adjoining part of the ocean.

The agreement in Southern California/Hawaii requires the Navy to notify interested parties and NOAA to investigate marine animal deaths and injuries whenever Navy sonar or explosives are suspected as being the cause. But that is in those waters only. Unfortunately, no such agreement exists in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, this article in Truthout by Dahr Jamail, published today, shows that the Navy is not only NOT notifying interested parties in the Pacific Northwest, but stonewalling them. So, the question is obvious:

If the Navy has been required to create safe havens until 2018 for marine mammals in Southern California and Hawaii, why are they not being required to do the same for Pacific Northwest waters? If harm has been proven to an unacceptable degree in Southern waters, why is it not unacceptable in Northern ones?

A list of all of NOAA’s LOAs for military activities can be found here.

Humpback feeding

Humpback whale feeding. The original “Big Gulp.”


 

November 7, 2015 – Navy going rogue: Yesterday we received the astounding news that the Navy has unilaterally decided that Washington’s State Historic Preservation Officer is no longer needed in consultations about the effects of Navy activities on important cultural and historic properties.

WA State flag

The Evergreen State’s flag with official seal.

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 a letter sent to the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO, pronounced “Shippo,”), the Navy claims that they have complied with the requirements as set forth in the statute and regulations.

However, when we interviewed the SHPO, we were informed that their office has made it abundantly clear that the process is far from complete.  We have been given permission to publish the letter the SHPO received from the Navy and their reply objecting to such abrupt termination of ongoing discussions.

Click here to read the Navy’s email cover note and its formal abrupt letter terminating consultation with the State.

Click here to read the immediate objections and response from the State of Washington.

As of October 2, the Navy produced an EIS without completing formal endangered species consultations with either the State, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or the National Marine Fisheries Service. Now it has told the State to buzz off.

Does anyone think this is ethical behavior for a federal agency?

quinaltriver

Quinault River, one of many to be impacted by electronic warfare and incessant jet noise.


November 3, 2015A Summary of Recent Events: 

Mid-August: The WCAA and Olympic Forest Coalition met with Navy Region Northwest staff and asked for three things, which are described further in our Open Letter to the Navy.

  1. Fix the noise complaint hotline.
  1. Stop the horrendously disruptive low jet swoops over communities.
  1. Give the public a subscription service so we can learn about comment periods before they’re half over.

Could anyone call these requests unreasonable? Could anyone with a $600 billion dollar budget claim with a straight face that these things are too difficult?

What our tax dollars pay for

A $600 billion dollar Defense budget includes the astonishing fact, documented by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, that the Pentagon cannot pass an audit and cannot account for a full 25 percent of its spending. Also this little-known fact: for every dollar spent on troops, two dollars go to Defense contractors.

October 2: The Navy released a 4,000-page FEIS (Final Environmental Impact Statement) WITH NO PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD. They called it a 30-day “Public Review Period,” saying the public could send them comments if we wanted. Unfortunately, they failed to list any address to which comments could be sent. This is unprecedented behavior for the Navy in all of its activities in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and elsewhere in the Pacific.

LIbrary at Coos Bay OR

The library at Coos Bay. Surely there was room on this table for a 4-volume EIS? But the Navy did not send it to any libraries in towns along the entire lower 2/3 of Oregon’s coast.

October 15: Most of the libraries in Northern California that were supposed to receive copies of the FEIS didn’t get them, or if they did, got them halfway through the 30-day “Public Review Period.” Of five Oregon libraries, in northern Oregon only, to whom the Navy claims to have sent the Final EIS, both the Newport and Guin libraries did receive it but were not informed via cover letter of any time sensitivity, so the Guin library shipped it off to Corvallis to be catalogued. Therefore, the EIS didn’t get onto the shelf until the middle of the month. As you can see on the map below, two-thirds of the Oregon coastline, including towns of Brookings, Port Orford, Gold Beach, Bandon, Coos Bay, North Bend, Reedsport, Florence, Yachats, and Waldport, all or most of which have libraries, were denied access to the EIS. As of mid-October, only one of the individuals with whom the WCAA is in touch had received their copy. This left 15 days to review 4,000 pages of a document that had been significantly changed from its draft version. WITH NO COMMENT PERIOD. Is that any way to treat the public?

 

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This map shows areas of Navy activity in Oregon and Washington. One would think libraries in affected areas might have been given the courtesy of receiving the EIS to make available to the public for the full length of the “Public Review Period,” but they were not.

When we also learned that not only have the three required consultations not been completed with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and State Historic Preservation Officer, we became even more concerned. And when we learned that the Navy would probably be issuing itself a waiver for those consultations so it could sign a final Record of Decision in early November, we had to do something.

October 15: WCAA and Olympic Forest Coalition sent this cover letter and this Joint Memorandum, which included a copy of this response letter from UNESCO, to Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Environment Donald Schregardus and others, with these three messages:

  1. The Navy has again excluded the public from a public process;
  1. It didn’t evaluate cumulative impacts or conduct the sound study requested by Congressman Derek Kilmer, and
  1. Proceeding without knowing what the impacts are to endangered species or to cultural and historic sites is unwise.

October 17: The Navy emailed the public inviting us to sign up for its newly-revived monthly newsletter called “Soundings.”

October 19: Base commander Captain Michael Nortier sent out a mass mailing that labeled the public’s concerns “confusion,” and “myths.” It labeled efforts to express those concerns as “false and misleading.”

Let’s unpack that stunning insult:

  1. Congressman Derek Kilmer’s reasonable request for a “neutral” sound study on the effects of jet noise on Olympic National Park is not a myth. Click here to read it.
  2. The Navy’s answer to our concern that they broke the law in a number of areas? Some gobbledygook about the transfer from Prowlers to Growlers in 2005, and a claim about OLF (Outlying Field) Coupeville, a topic that was never even mentioned in our correspondence.
  1. The letter continues, “Many more myths are dispelled on this page: http://go.usa.gov/3B4Mk.” A quick check finds that as of today, links on that page to both the Electronic Warfare Environmental Assessment and its Finding of No Significant Impact remain broken, rendering those documents also unavailable to the public.

Week of October 26: Navy jets have been subjecting local communities to even more noise than usual. Public impression is that communities are being “punished.”

EA-18G

Conclusion: To help make the divide between fact and myth more obvious, consider reading “A Comparison of Spoken And Written Statements.” It does not resort to exaggeration; it simply reports the facts verbatim, as transcribed from videos of Navy personnel at multiple public meetings, and it compares their spoken remarks with what has been written in official public documents. It also points out specific laws and regulations that were broken, including one about public officials making false and misleading statements. Readers will see that the creator of myths and “false and misleading” information has in fact been the Navy, not the public. There are so many contradictions highlighted that upon reading it one may be excused for thinking one has entered an alternate universe.

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Credit: Matt Groening

Here is the real message behind the “Myth vs Fact” format used repeatedly by the Navy to discredit people who disagree with their claim of being fair and honest with the public. By insisting that law-abiding people across the Olympic Peninsula, who say jet noise and pollution at these levels is unacceptable are engaging in a form of mythology, the Navy is really saying the following:

  1. The Facts are what the Navy says they are, not the people. The people are “confused.”
  1. Disputing the Navy’s version of “fact” is tantamount to making false and misleading statements.
  1. It is okay for a federal government agency of the United States of America to belittle and ridicule American citizens who are not in lockstep with it.

Does anyone find this acceptable?

The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.”


 

November 1, 2015An expert’s comments on electromagnetic radiation:  Dr. Martin Pall, Professor Emeritus at Washington State University and an expert on the effects of electromagnetic radiation, just sent the following email message for wide distribution:

“The attached message has already been sent to the Navy regarding deep flaws in the EIS in the very short consideration of safety of the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) that the Navy plans to use for electromagnetic warfare testing and training. My main concern is focused on human health of people on the Olympic Peninsula but I have also similar, or some cases even higher concerns with regard to both the wildlife and plants in the National Forest and National Park. The safety standards/guidelines for these allow too high exposures by a factor of about 7.2 million and the Navy provides no scientific support whatsoever for these plans. You can see from the attached, that there are 9 deep flaws in the parts of the EIS that discuss this issue; you can also see that I have major professional credentials in this area, based on my professional training and based on my publications.”

To read Dr. Pall’s comments, click here.

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EA-18G “Growler” jet. The loudest aircraft on the planet is also equipped with weaponized lasers, microwaves and other forms of directed energy. As many as 153 of these are slated to fly over the Olympic Peninsula 8-16 hours per day, 260 days per year.


 

October 26, 2015 – Did the US Navy Break Federal Laws to Push War Games Over National Forests?  Read this article in Truthout by Dahr Jamail. “We have the right and the duty to oversee the actions of federal agencies, including the military, and to insist that they follow the law and their own policies. We have the right to be heard on the official record, a right that is currently being denied. It is not unpatriotic to insist on these rights, and to demand that our government follow the law and its own policies.”

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“The public is being left out of too many major decisions by our government, and that’s wrong.”


 

October 15, 2015Joint Memorandum from West Coast Action Alliance and Olympic Forest Coalition sent to U.S. Navy:  This week we sent a formal memorandum, along with a letter from UNESCO, to the U.S. Navy senior command (in Washington DC as well as the Pacific Northwest); to federal, state and local elected officials in Northern California, Oregon and Washington, and to other interested parties. Our Memorandum is about the U.S. Navy’s current course of action in issuing a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Northwest Testing and Training, in an unlawful manner. The area covered in this Final EIS extends from Northern California to Alaska, a huge area of concern.

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Specifically, the Final EIS is unlawful and fatally flawed for a number of significant reasons, listed briefly here and explained in detail further in the memorandum:

Failure to provide reasonable notice to the public.

Failure to provide adequate comment process.

Failure to address functionally connected activities and their cumulative impacts.

Failure to adequately consider impacts to Olympic National Park’s World Heritage designation.

Failure to wait until completion of Final EIS and Record of Decision before initiating actions.

Ethical and legal questions about the Navy’s conduct abound: hidden notices, comment periods that have been shortened or wholly eliminated, and last-minute publication of key documents coupled with total disregard for NEPA’s prohibitions on segmentation present a clear and present danger that the Navy is hastily proceeding with plans regardless and in defiance of federally mandated processes.

Reasonable concerns and objections presented by the public and allied organizations continue to be utterly disregarded, and this controversy intensifies by the day. For example, Congressman Derek Kilmer requested several months ago that the Navy undertake a “neutral” sound study on jet noise in Olympic National Park, under the auspices of the Federal Interagency Committee on Aviation Noise (FICAN).  The Navy failed to do so. Instead, it reconstituted an older study using data that applied to Prowler jets, which are no longer being flown, to justify no significant impacts on the soundscapes of Olympic National Park, and inserted that in the Final EIS.

We believe that it is reasonable and right for citizens to ask our federal government to follow its own policies and laws; we also believe that when multiple requests to an agency from federal and state officials, tribes, private organizations and individuals are repeatedly ignored, then it is time for other state, federal, tribal and local organizations as well as private groups and individuals to be apprised of the situation.

UPDATE October 16, 2015: If you are one of the many people who received an email yesterday from the U.S. Navy (visible on a browser here), you are not alone in wondering “Why now?” If you look at our previous posts in this column, you’ll see that we have been asking for exactly this, by letter, by web, and in person, for several months. We appreciate the Navy’s responsiveness, but in light of all the other things that still need to be done as described in our memorandum, and because the Navy has been able to maintain Facebook and Twitter accounts long before giving the public a subscription service like every other federal agency does, we believe that it is now the public’s turn to say, “Duly noted.”

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It’s patriotic to insist that the government follow the law.

 


 

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October 10, 2015If a Growler jet takes off from Whidbey Island and flies along a military training route to practice electronic warfare over Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest using ground-based mobile emitters, and then it continues out to sea to do similar training with ships in the Northwest Training and Testing Range, wouldn’t most people conclude that those actions are functionally connected? Like, without the Growlers you don’t need mobile emitters, for example. What if you were told that you can’t comment on the jet noise you know will be triggered by the emitters, because the “scope” of evaluation only covers the noise from the mobile emitter generators? What if you were told jet noise had been covered in previous comment periods in other documents, but you went looking and found it wasn’t? And what if you were told that the Growlers, Electronic Warfare Range and Northwest Training and Testing Range were not connected with each other? Would you believe it? If you do, there’s a bridge for sale…

And what if you discovered that last week the Navy released another 4,000-page Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Northwest Training and Testing, with this statement: “While there is technically no comment period, if a new substantive comment was submitted to us, the Navy would consider it before making a decision.” What exactly does that mean? And since no email address for comments was provided in any public notices, nor online comment box, and not even a physical mailing address, then how is the public supposed to send the Navy our feedback? Some are being told that this new EIS covers impacts to species and cultural and historic sites on the Olympic Peninsula, but actually, it doesn’t. What would you think if the Navy signed a final Record of Decision for operations from now until 2020 without knowing what those impacts are?

Like other branches of the military, the Navy studies the writings of a Chinese military strategist named Sun Tzu, who lived in the 5th century BC.He wrote a book called “The Art of War.” One of his most famous quotes is,”The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” When it comes to the strategy of divide and conquer using our federal environmental laws, the Navy has no equal.


 

September 19, 2015The Age of Unreason.  Although the Navy has made changes to its web site since the Open Letter (below) was written, none of those changes reflect any public requests to improve communications with the public. How hard can it be, in an age of mass surveillance, for the government to actually listen to the citizens it is supposed to serve?

Much is happening, the pattern being a doubling down of military encroachment on western Washington’s lands, waters and airspace, along with rapidly growing public opposition. The Navy wants the Olympic Peninsula and the Olympic National Marine Sanctuary. The Army wants the Cascades, southwest Washington, and south Puget Sound (see July 20 and August 6 posts).  UPDATE OCTOBER 1, 2015:  THE AIR FORCE HAS APPLIED FOR A PERMIT TO USE OLYMPIC NATIONAL FOREST LANDS AND CAMPGROUND IN THE CALAWAH RIVER WATERSHED FOR SURVIVAL SCHOOL TRAINING. The military wants to bomb, fire rockets, land attack helicopters, install 720 sonobuoys, conduct electronic warfare over our heads, and use sonar that is orders of magnitude louder than the loudest Navy jets. They have confused the public with multiple separate processes for geographically and functionally related actions. At risk are a World Heritage site, a marine sanctuary rich in marine life, Wilderness areas, a piece of the Pacific Crest Trail, the most important nesting habitat for threatened marbled murrelets, and the peace and quiet of a region famous for it. The military already owns hundreds of thousands of square miles to practice in (see this map file). Why is that not enough?

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The Olympic National Park is a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. It is also the quietest place in America. Fighter jets don’t belong here.

Much is happening to feel encouraged about, too. The West Coast Action Alliance is in contact with senior officials at UNESCO who are concerned about the threat to Olympic National Park’s World Heritage status. A briefing paper prepared by a committee of concerned citizens is being circulated through multiple channels at UNESCO. It is the public’s intent to raise awareness in not just our own region, but the entire world.

The US Forest Service is due to publish its final Notice of Decision in late September or early October, on whether to issue the permit to the Navy to drive mobile emitters around Olympic National Forest roads so they can practice electronic warfare. We should probably brace ourselves, because the Forest Service has not indicated it is going to deny that permit. When the notice comes out, we will have a 30-day comment period to object, but here’s the hitch: in order to have your comments accepted, you have to be one of the 4,000 people who wrote comments to the Forest Service back in autumn 2014, about the same issue. Back then it was all draft; this time it’ll be their final decision. Comment again and you will have the standing to participate in legal remedies. We will announce this.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s latest Biological Opinion, a document evaluating impacts to threatened and endangered species posed by the Navy’s proposed actions, is due in October. The Navy cannot legally proceed without it; therefore, it deserves our utmost attention and scrutiny. We will post it on this web site.

The Army’s comment period on landing combat helicopters in pristine wilderness beloved by many has been extended to November 3, 2015. If you haven’t written them a letter, feel free to borrow language from these talking points or this joint comment letter from 25 organizations.

To keep up with media coverage of events, it’s a good idea to periodically check this web site’s News Stories page.

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Autumn sunset over the Strait of Juan de Fuca.


 

August 20, 2015 – An Open Letter to the U.S. Navy.

Dear Navy,

When the announcement about the collaboration between the Forest Service and the US Navy on the Olympic Peninsula first came to light last year, it took the public by complete surprise.  Shock, dismay, anger, and resentment were felt by all of us when we found out that the Navy’s military operations on wilderness roads and in skies over our communities and public lands would go forward despite not a single public comment being received.  Although you admitted that you should have put public notices in local papers to alert us about your proposed operations, you still held firm, saying sorry people, you’re too late, no comments will be accepted.

Thank goodness the Forest Service had to open a comment period before issuing their decision on whether or not to grant you a permit. 4,000 comments in a few weeks, all but 31 opposed, ought to have sent you both a message that something is very wrong.

To suddenly realize that the treasured quiet places we hold so dear, and the primary reasons why we live here, will be seriously affected by military operations was too much to process. To be hit with at least six separate but related NEPA documents in one year, some over 2,000 pages long, was too much to process. To try and navigate your complicated, acronym-laden web pages to find information is still too much to process. To be told that if we witness your fighter jets flying lower than allowed levels, that we should call a noise complaint hotline, where “a duty officer will take down the details,” only to find there’s no duty officer, ever, only a recording, and there’s never any feedback, was too much to process. To ask that our own government conduct itself in an open and transparent manner when dealing with issues that affect our communities and lives should NOT be too much for you to process.

So we invite you to do the following three things as a gesture of good faith to the public:

  1. Fix your noise complaint hotline. Wherever it might be listed among your many web sites, it isn’t found in a google search. Actually, this is what you get:

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What is listed further down in that google search is a dot-org site whose connection to the Navy is unclear. The recording itself is unfriendly and uninformative, and it asks callers to give up their names, addresses and phone numbers before registering the complaint. You can probably imagine the public’s reluctance to provide so much information to an agency that provides so little of it in return.  Most people’s impression is that calls are not taken seriously. So, please put a duty officer on that hot line. Re-do the recording and tell us what happens when each complaint is made. Where do they go? Who sees them? What does the Navy do about it? And then, LISTEN TO US. And respond. Make a report to the public on these noise complaints; how many came in, how many you investigated, and what you did about them. Have that report reviewed by an independent auditor.  Answer the emails you get about jet noise. And put the report on your main web page, the one where you’re going to tell people what the hot line number is. The reason you get so few complaints on that hot line is because it’s widely regarded as a joke. Being more responsive could help mend fences with the public, which right now thinks you don’t care.

  1. Stop the horrendously disruptive low jet swoops over communities and the quiet places that have been beloved public lands for decades. People trying to enjoy the quiet in Olympic National Park are giving more and more negative feedback to the Park Service. Guests at the beautiful Kalaloch lodge and elsewhere on the West End are leaving early because your pilots won’t stop coming in low overhead. Tourists are saying they’ll never come back to the Olympic Peninsula because of the noise. Within hours of a recent court ruling in Seattle that went against a citizen’s group claiming harm from jet noise, one or two Navy jets made two of the lowest, loudest passes over Port Townsend ever heard. Why? Was it a victory lap? Do you not realize that people take that as a gesture of contempt? You ask us to photograph the offending jets, but have you ever tried to photograph a low-altitude aircraft going 500 miles per hour? No wonder photos are so rare. But we will try. Noise is by far the biggest issue. Reduce it and people will be less angry with you.
  1. Fix your web pages. They are among the most confusing and civilian-unfriendly in the entire federal government. While there is an entire page of the Commander, Navy Region Northwest‘s page devoted to the Navy’s regional marching band, as of today there has still not been a single mention of any subscription service like other agencies have, to give people a chance to sign up and receive fair notice of public processes and review documents. As a result, we find out by chance that a comment period is open, and then, having lost valuable time to read, digest and participate in the public conversation that a law called NEPA is supposed to give us, we become ever more angry and frustrated. Other agencies with far less funding offer a subscription service, so why can’t you? And if you make it so that people can pick the issues they wish to follow rather than get a massive feed that swamps their inboxes, you’ll go a long way in improving communication with the public. And please stop limiting public comments online to 5,000 characters. That’s actually illegal.

So, the above three things would be a start, a demonstration of good faith. But in no way will these three things alone ameliorate the byzantine and confusing ways in which the Navy conducts its NEPA processes, or excuse the deafening noise we are forced to endure. Those three requests are what good neighbors might ask of each other. If you do them, then the real public conversation that needs to take place can happen.

Just so you know, we’re not going anywhere, and we can make a lot of noise, too.

Sincerely,

John and Jane Q. Public, who love their Olympic Peninsula and its quiet places.

USFWS Spotted_Owl_and_Marbled_Murrelet_Habitat


 

August 9, 2015The wettest rainforest in the continental United States is going up in flames. What does this have to do with the military? The Department of Defense uses 360,000 barrels of oil each day. This amount makes the DoD the single largest oil consumer in the world. There are only 35 countries in the world consuming more oil than the US military. 70 percent of that consumption is jet fuel. It would of course be unrealistic to put 100 percent of the blame on the military for climate change-caused fires, but the formidable combination of military dependence on fossil fuels, the extreme funding Congress gives the military to spend on its defense contractors (2 dollars for every $1 spent on troops), and Big Oil’s reckless determination to go into extremely risky places like the Arctic for more oil, demonstrates a willful disregard for the planet in the desperate race to claim and wring profit from its remaining resources. Meanwhile, Olympic National Park is so desperate for basic maintenance funding that it is applying to the Department of Defense for help.

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Paradise Fire at Olympic National Park.

 

The Navy is building a mega-base at Whidbey Island, with hundreds of jets including at least 153 EA-18G “Growlers.” Costs are staggering. At an operating expense of between $35,000 and $45,000 per hour, these jets also consume more than 1300 gallons of fuel per hour, and nearly ten times that amount when using afterburners. The military also practices fuel-dumping. In these fuel-dumping guidelines you will read that fuel dumped at 6,000 feet “evaporates and atomizes” before it reaches the ground or surface water, but news flash: heavy metals don’t evaporate.

The military is aware of the need to shrink its fossil energy use and has done so to a minor degree, but a couple of facts get in the way of claiming that green cloak for themselves: First, the Department of Defense has actively opposed alternative energy projects while building alternative facilities for itself, and second, the fact that a single hour of flight in one jet uses more fuel than the average Washington citizen uses in a year, combined with the fact that the Navy wants even more jets should give pause for thought: before it decided to encroach on our public lands and airspaces, did the Navy address its contribution to climate change or air pollution? No. Why not? Because they think they don’t have to. Shouldn’t we all have a say in that? Shouldn’t we have a say in whether our own government gets serious about climate change before more of Olympic National Park burns while Navy jets roar overhead?

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The public has not had their say in this massive intrusion into our lives. The Navy sneaked its Environmental Assessment past us without getting a single public comment, then declared no significant impacts because nobody cared to comment, and called it a day. At none of the 3 public meetings were any comments officially recorded. This is unacceptable behavior by our government.


 

August 6, 2015 – The US Army wants to fire rockets into South Puget Sound. Hello? Is this a joke? Unfortunately not, and you have until August 25 to tell the Army how you feel about it. Let’s unpack this surreal piece of news. First, the Army’s rationale for endangering its South Sound neighbors is… wait for it… saving money. By not moving the mobile rocket launchers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to the huge firing range at Yakima where they normally practice, the Army claims it will save $227,000 in “travel expenses.” Yakima is a 167-mile drive from JBLM, and we all know the Army doesn’t put their soldiers in first class hotels, so that travel expense number is inflated beyond belief. In exchange, here’s what we get:  130 decibels, sonic booms, startled and terrified wildlife, disruptions in fish hatcheries, more contaminants in Puget Sound, and the not unlikely possibility of stray missiles landing in residential areas.

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One of the Army’s mobile “HiMARs” rocket launchers in action. The Army wants to know if the public would be “overly bothered” by the noise and the possibility of stray missiles landing in residential areas. Let’s tell them, shall we?

 

The Army has assured us that these rockets will not carry live ammunition, but as a friend of this writer can attest after part of a jet engine landed in his living room, “You don’t want to be home when even that much happens.” Even this over-the-top video says, “Launching rockets can be a dangerous business,” and “The light will blind you,” and “While there aren’t many safety issues for the [3-man] crew, it’s sure to create a few safety issues for the jokers on the receiving end of those rockets.”

How ironic is it that after spending untold millions of tax dollars to build something called “High Mobility Artillery Rocket Launchers,” that the Army doesn’t want to move them? And how much gas does it take to load them on semi-trucks, for which they are designed, and drive them to Yakima? Certainly not $227,000 worth. Let’s do the math: a semi-truck averaging 5 miles per gallon and paying $4 per gallon of diesel would use 33.4 gallons of fuel, or $133 and change to drive to Yakima. The only way it could conceivably cost anywhere near that much would be if they loaded them onto C-17s or C-130s and flew them the 167 miles, which would be terribly wasteful. To read the Army’s Environmental Assessment for only the 27 test missiles they want to fire into South Puget Sound this winter to see how the public reacts, click here.

To submit your comments on this absurd idea, email them at:
usarmy.jblm.imcom.list.dpw-eis@mail.mil
or mail your comments to the following address:

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
DIRECTORATE OF PUBLIC WORKS
ATTN ENVIRONMENTAL DIVISION
2012 LIGGETT AVE, BOX 339500 MS 17
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD WA 98433-9500

Comments must be received by August 25, 2015.

These rocket launchers can put multiple missiles in the air with a range of from 20 to 300 miles, meaning they could hit Spokane, Yakima, and anywhere on the Olympic Peninsula as well as maritime and aviation traffic and recreational boaters on Puget Sound and beyond, from the proposed firing location at JBLM. If you live near there, you might well be more concerned about a stray missile than even the 130 decibels of noise and sonic booms they’ve got in store for you. These missiles should NEVER be tested near civilian populations. That’s why civilians gave the military all that land.

 

For more irony, if the Army wants to stop using the range at Yakima, does that not leave more range time open for the Navy? Yakima’s vast open expanses of military land are a nine-minute flight from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. So let’s be clear, this isn’t about saving money. The Navy wants to “own” public lands and airspace from the Canadian border to the west end of the Olympic Peninsula, and all surrounding waters from Alaska to Southern California. The Army wants public lands and airspace from the North Cascades to Southwest Washington. They’ve been planning this for several years, as this report demonstrates. Nice of our congressional delegation to tell us about it, eh?

Either someone at the Pentagon has gone nuts or the definition of “civilian collateral damage” has been greatly expanded.


 

August 2, 2015 Interesting op-ed in the New York Times about base closures: One would think that if the Pentagon threatened to cut 90,000 jobs and is cash strapped at the same time the military is moving off its own enormous bases to encroach on public and private lands for “Realistic Military Training,” that logic might prevail in the search for efficiencies, but evidently it does not. One would think that in a country where the military is still civilian-controlled, that before poking the public in the eye with a sharp stick during a time when base closure and realignment discussion is coming up again, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island might realize that it is self-nominating. Evidently not, as the aggressive flyovers of local communities continues, along with threats to the integrity of our beloved Olympic National Park. Northwest Testing and Training Range manager Kent Mathes once told a citizen at a public meeting, “We own the airspace and there’s nothing you can do about that.”

And yet the public is repeatedly told to swallow the idea that the Navy is a good neighbor?


 

July 28, 2015 – Navy complains about lack of funding: While the Navy’s nearly $160 billion dollar base budget is the highest of any branch of the Armed Services and has been called “staggering” by the Washington Post, a Naval admiral spoke alongside Members of Congress at a recent special event to complain that it’s not enough.

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“If you look at it in comparison to other services, the Navy is in good shape,” said an analyst and retired naval commander. “It’s more about how much money the Navy should be getting relative to the demands being placed on the service.” For example, according to a fact sheet distributed at the event, ship-building is “underfunded by $5 billion, aviation procurement by nearly as much, readiness by $2.5 billion to $4 billion, weapons procurement by more than $1 billion, and construction by more than $600 million.”

Who is making these funding demands? The defense industry contributes around $70 million dollars to lobby Congress each year. In 2011, the $373 billion dollars of taxpayer money awarded to defense contractors was more than double what all the troops in the military received – a fact the contractors conveniently hide behind while wearing a patriotic mask. CEOs of two of the largest contractors received compensation packages of more than $25 million dollars each. The Pentagon has never faced an audit since a 1990 law required one of every government agency. Why? Because it would never pass.

Meanwhile, what’s happening throughout the rest of the country is no secret, and the military’s claiming of public lands and the airspace over our homes is an extension of the hubris and greed that continues to drive the whole corrupt process.


 

July 27, 2015 – “You’re in a whole new ball game of absurdity when they try to say that jet noise is not going to hurt anyone.” Read the latest Truthout article by Dahr Jamail: Sounds of War: Navy Warplanes Producing Deadly Noise Around US Bases.

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The loudest jet on the planet flies 200-300 feet over the homes of 1200 people, and swoops low across the skies of neighboring towns, too.

For more in-depth information on the effects of jet noise on humans and wildlife, visit our Scientific Reports page.


 

July 24, 2015 – Can you hear me now? Soundscapes tell plain truths. Scientific American has published numerous articles on the effects of noise on ocean-dwelling animals, including blue whales and other animals all over the world, even fish that live in oyster shells as amphitheaters. In the August 2015 issue (not yet online except by subscription), it describes how scientists measured the oxygen intake of dolphins trained to make low-amplitude and high-amplitude vocalizations, and then combined that with data from wild dolphins to estimate the extra calories it would take just to be heard over ordinary man-made noise from ships and boats. It adds up to a lot in an environment where creatures rely on sound to find food. Now imagine trying to live in a soundscape that sounds like this, with noise at unbearable levels that rupture organs.  To be in the water even a couple of miles away from a Navy ship using sonar can be lethal.

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To see this extraordinary video, click on “The Voice of the Natural World” in the paragraph below.

To be in a forest where jets roaring overhead obliterate silence and interrupt everything living below is also dangerous to health. Gordon Hempton, who has recorded soundscapes of the last remaining quiet places in the country, is trying to keep quiet places from going extinct. This 4-minute excerpt from the documentary “SoundTracker” is worth watching (full version here.)  And this amazing Ted Talk by Bernie Krause, author of “The Great Animal Orchestra,” will lead you through the emerging awareness of how sound can be used as a tool for grading the health of an ecosystem: The Voice of the Natural World.” 

Such research, combined with the fact that the National Park Service recognizes quiet as a natural resource to be mapped, measured and protected, makes one wonder: how is it that the Navy, and now the Army, can insist that they are entitled to hammer some of the last remaining quiet places in the country with deafening noise, in contempt not only of scientific evidence, but also of overwhelming public opposition?


 

July 20, 2015 – Here we go again: Army eyes North Cascades for helicopter training: The US Army wants large chunks of Forest Service and State lands in southwest Washington, and now in the Cascades, for off-base combat helicopter training day and night, year-round except for federal holidays. The flyover area would include much of the Cascades north of Interstate 90 and east of the crest of the Cascades. One of those areas lies just within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, (615 miles of public trails) west of the town of Leavenworth. Under the 1964 Wilderness Act, most motorized equipment is not allowed in wilderness areas. Another landing site would be located atop a ridge less than a mile from the Pacific Crest Trail, about 20 miles south of the Canadian border. Read the Army’s Scoping Document here. Read a background article on how the Senate Armed Services Committee is pushing for a much larger Army role in the Pacific. And this report will add context.

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Not what humans or wildlife want to see in a Wilderness Area or along the Pacific Crest Trail.

“Our national forests are not some annex of the Defense Department. We think that except for a few sites, they should be off-limits to the military,” said Andy Stahl, the executive director of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics.

Nowhere in public land statutes is there any indication that Congress intends national security interests to take precedence over other land management responsibilities of federal agencies.

UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 4:  COMMENT PERIOD EXTENDED TO NOVEMBER 3, 2015.


 

July 15, 2015 – Neighbors protest against noise pollution caused by jets. (KIRO-TV video)

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Click on the link above to watch this video.

The Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve went to court on July 15. Here’s their story.


 

July 10, 2015 – A Comparison of the Navy’s and the Forest Service’s Written and Spoken Remarks:  Comparing side-by-side the written and verbal statements made by the Navy and Forest Service is both eye-opening and useful, because there are so many discrepancies. We examined videos of what was said at public meetings and compared them with internal and external agency documents.

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Screen shot of video from public meeting at Pacific Beach, WA. From left to right, the Navy’s Capt. John Mosher, NWTT Range manager Kent Mathes, and Navy Cmdr. Brian Danielson


 

July 5, 2015 – Olympic National Park is one step closer to losing its World Heritage designation: After scientists at the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) reviewed the Navy’s Environmental Assessment on establishing an electronic warfare range on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, they noted that part of the Military Operating Area falls within the boundaries of a World Heritage Site, yet nowhere is there a discussion of impacts. In a letter to the US Ambassador, UNESCO recommended that a “…full environmental and social impact assessment of activities in and outside the property [be conducted], which may have potential effects on the overall Outstanding Universal Value.” To read that letter, click here.

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Olympic National Park coastline. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

What does this mean? It’s not just the fact that military jet noise and pollution threaten our beloved Park’s World Heritage designation, it’s the very idea that the Navy can muscle in and destroy it and the tourism economy of surrounding areas, as well as the famous quiet on the Olympic Peninsula, by using a deliberately disingenuous public process and accepting no responsibility for the consequences of its actions. That is neither the definition of a good neighbor, nor good government.


 

July 3, 2015 – Acute circulatory effects of military low-altitude flight noise: an older but still relevant scientific study from the International Archives of Occupational Health.

“The blood pressure response to a repeated single exposure increased in proportion to the preceding noise exposure At high intensities and fast level increase, an up to fourfold reaction intensification was detected in the majority of subjects. This change in reactivity is regarded as the result of sensitization toward the special type of noise, and the implications of these observations for the long-term effects of chronic exposure to low-altitude flight noise are considered. On the basis of these results, proposals are made for limiting values for Lmax (maximum instantaneous noise level) and for the speed of sound pressure level increase, the implementation of which would lead to a marked reduction in health risks from low-altitude flight noise.”

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The Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve have filed an injunction for relief from the intense jet noise. Click here to read it, or here to read the press release. Not long after the injunction was filed, the Navy declared part of the runway unsafe and thus doubled the number of flights using the remaining part of the runway going 200-300 feet over several hundred private homes. An excellent summary of the controversy and lawsuits from this Navy building and spending spree can he found in this June 30 article from the Olympian.

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Jet noise affects wildlife, too. From January to September during the nesting and young-rearing period, bald eagles are very sensitive to noise and human activity.


 

July 2, 2015 – Forest Services publishes notice that it still plans to adopt Navy’s flawed, inaccurate Environmental Assessment and will likely issue the permit, despite 99.9% of the 3300 public comments being against it. Click here for the document containing this announcement. Click here to read about why that EA is so flawed. Don’t like this decision? Call, write or fax your objections to the Forest Service’s Regional Forester:

Jim Pena
PO Box 3623
Portland, OR 97208
Phone: 503-808-2200
Fax: 503-808-2210
e-mail: jpena@fs.fed.us
website: www.fs.fed.us/r6

FS SOPA

For older stories, see “News from January – June 2015.”

 

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