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All of the nation’s Growler jets are housed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. They will engage in electronic warfare testing and training over the Olympic Peninsula, by flying 8 to 16 hours per day for 260 days per year. The Navy’s stated intent is to turn the area into an Electronic Warfare range. The public is worried about jet noise, pollution, electromagnetic radiation, stress, loss of our tourism-based economy, decline in property values, and a number of other issues. According to the Navy’s own statistics on older aircraft, a jet flying at 1000 feet of altitude, which they already do too often over the Olympic Peninsula, will produce 113 decibels, well above the human pain threshold and enough to cause permanent damage to hearing. A Growler can produce 150 dB. Hearing damage occurs at 85. For many sensitive species who rely on hearing to find food or mates, hearing damage thresholds are lower. A recent study in which a phantom highway was set up with noise only revealed the significant harm noise causes to wildlife.
Noise levels for Growler jets, which can reach speeds of 1400 mph, have been measured by independent professionals and found to be much louder than the slower Prowler jets they are replacing. For example, noise levels inside some residential homes near the Outlying Landing Field (OLF) at Coupeville on Whidbey Island, which is a short runway near a residential area, have been measured at 100 decibels.
Port Townsend, WA, November 8, 2015 – The West Coast Action Alliance and Olympic Forest Coalition received the astounding news that the Navy has unilaterally declared the consultation over, on effects of Navy activities on cultural and historic properties, with Washington’s State Historic Preservation Officer. In her immediate reply letter from the State, State Historic Preservation Officer Dr. Allyson Brooks strongly objected to the abrupt termination.
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 their letter to Dr. Brooks, the Navy claimed that they have complied with the requirements as set forth in the statute and regulations.
However, Dr. Brooks’ office has made it abundantly clear, and reconfirmed this in her letter, that the process is far from complete. Dr. Brooks strenuously objected to such abrupt termination of ongoing discussions.
As of October 2, the Navy produced a 3,400-page Final EIS on Northwest Training and Testing, with no public comment period and without completing formal endangered species and cultural/historic site consultations with the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and the State of Washington. After granting itself a waiver via the office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Donald Schregardus, the Navy is expected to sign a Record of Decision on Monday, November 9. This in effect gives the Navy permission to proceed with actions that require incidental take permits from federal wildlife agencies, and a determination from the State of Washington on potential harm to cultural and historic properties, without knowing what those impacts will be.
Navy's actions include: failure to provide reasonable notice to the public about their planned war games, failure to provide adequate comment process, failure to address functionally connected activities and their cumulative impacts, and failure to adequately consider impacts to Olympic National Park's World Heritage designation, among others.
Sullivan, who worked for over 15 years in the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Division of Endangered Species and External Affairs, told Truthout she believes the Navy's final environmental impact statement (EIS) about their upcoming warfare training is "unlawful and fatally flawed."
"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.
LAND, SEA AND AIR
The land issue boils down to: Should the Forest Service issue a Special Use Permit to the Navy to use roads in the Olympic National Forest to run their electromagnetic radiation-emitting truck-and-trailer combinations, which would entail numerous unannounced forest closures and other problems? The Navy proposes to rotate three mobile emitters among 14 sites in the Olympic National Forest, and to build one large fixed emitter at Pacific Beach.
Navy rendition of its mobile emitter.
These emitters will simulate “bad guys” by sending a variety of signals to be detected by trios of Growler jets, who will detect the signals and fire a “simulated harm shoot” at each one. The Navy has not told the public about what level or type of directed energy constitutes a “simulated harm shoot,” or about the intensity or impacts of using an “Active Electronic Scanning Array” (AESA) to detect these emitter signals over populated areas, or about how such directed energy systems can differentiate between a person with a cellphone or VHF radio and an emitter. Most emitter sites are right at the boundaries of the Olympic National Park or overlooking State, Tribal and private lands. Two emitter sites are on DNR land, for which as of early 2015, the Navy had not applied for a permit. In February 2015, Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark wrote a letter to Admiral Jeffrey Ruth declining to allow DNR lands adjacent to Olympic National Forest to be used for this purpose. The airspace over all of these lands (including private and tribal) and over the offshore waters is considered by the Navy to be within the Military Operating Area.
12 Joint Threat Emitter
Joint Threat Emitter. The manufacturer reports that one of these is already at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Source: Northrop-Grumman.
Around each emitter a 100-foot perimeter labeled “Warning – Personnel Hazard” will be taped off. Human beings and “observable” wildlife, e.g., large mammals, will be prevented from entering, or will be hazed out. However, small mammals and birds will not. All of the proposed emitter sites are within critical habitat for spotted owls and/or marbled murrelets.
2900 training events over 260 days per year will be conducted for 8 to 16 hours per day. The habitat around each mobile emitter site will be exposed to electromagnetic radiation for as much as 468 hours per year. The Navy’s 2014 Environmental Assessment (EA) was not specific about the intensity or maximum potential exposure of the vehicles’ electromagnetic emitters. Navy officials admit they do not know the impact of the emitters on small animals. But they have given the public a “ballpark estimate” of the amount of exposure it would take to receive burns or damage liquid eye tissue: fifteen minutes.