The U.S. Navy almost succeeded in gaining approval for their proposed electronic warfare (EW) training in the Olympic National Forest without public outcry. Almost. The Navy completed an Environmental Assessment (EA), published it on their website, and then opened a public comment period for 15 days; from August 1 through August 15, 2014.
The Navy sent out some post cards to 141 unnamed “elected officials, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, community and business groups and individuals on the project mailing list.” [Appendix C, p. C-1, EA] The post card (see image) states in part:
“The Navy proposes installation and operation of an EW range, including:
Installation and operation of a fixed emitter at the Naval Station Everett Annex Pacific Beach, including a building renovation
Installation and operation of communication equipment on an existing tower at Octopus Mountain
Operation of mobile emitters on existing logging roads on U.S. Forest Service and Washington State Department of Natural Resources lands in the following areas:
What the post card doesn’t say is that the fixed and mobile emitters are operating in the high power, microwave region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The EA itself does not adequately address the hazards of this radiation. Not having received any comments as of August 15, 2014, the Navy then sent the completed EA to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for approval to grant a special use permit in the National Forest.
Besides the 141 postcards sent to whomever, how hard did the Navy try to inform the public?
Display advertisements were published in the following four newspapers: The Seattle Times (August 1-3); Aberdeen’s Daily World (August 2, 5 and 7); The Olympian (August 1-3); and the Grays Harbor weekly, The Montesano Vidette (August 7 and 14). [Appendix C, p. C-2, EA] Take particular note of the publication dates and the open comment period (Aug. 1-15).
Note also the geographical regions served by the newspapers where ads were published. Except for Aberdeen and Grays Harbor, none are anywhere near the proposed Olympic Peninsula sites. Both Aberdeen and Grays Harbor are a distance south of the proposed sites. One newspaper of note is conspicuously absent: the Forks Forum (most of the proposed mobile emitter sites are at Forks’ doorstep). Also, conspicuously absent are: the Peninsula Daily News, the Sequim Gazette and the Port Townsend Leader, the primary newspapers for the populous cities of the North Olympic Peninsula.
And what about Eastern Washington and the proposed sites in the Okanogan and Roosevelt National Forests?
Initial notification letters were sent to five tribes last spring: the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and the Yakima Nation, as well as the Hoh, Quileute, and Quinault Tribes. In July, letters with an attached executive summary of the EA were sent to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, and the Hoh, Quileute, Quinault and Makah Tribes. [Appendix B, EA]
Twenty US Post Offices, also unnamed, received a two-page informational flier. Probably they regret Forks having been one. It seems that the only reason anyone who actually lives on the Olympic Peninsula found out about this plan was because Forks resident Dukki Brown noticed the flier on a side window of the Forks post office and sent a photo of it along with a letter of inquiry to the Forks Forum.
Public outcry resulted in the USFS reopening the comment period. Public outcry in Forks elicited a meeting with the Navy and the Forest Service on October 14th, at the Forks Chamber of Commerce. Further public outcry has resulted in a scheduled meeting with the Navy (Forest Service has yet to confirm) on Thursday, November 6, 2014, at 6:00 PM in the Port Angeles City Council Chamber, 321 E. Fifth Ave, Port Angeles.
Public comments are open until October 31, 2014. Send comments to: email@example.com
It appears that the Navy tried, and almost succeeded, in flying this proposal in under the radar.
Update 11/1/2014: The comment period has been extended through November 28, 2014. The Port Angeles meeting has been confirmed.