"In Part 1 of this study, we described a plan by the US Navy to turn the Olympic Peninsula on the northwest corner of Washington State into an electronic warfare zone. In this section, we will review a series of unanswered questions about how this war plan might harm people and wildlife now living on the Olympic Peninsula.
List of Unanswered Questions Requires Extending the Comment Period
We believe that the public should submit substantial written comments asking the Forest Service to extend the comment period by 60 additional days to February 1 2014 to allow the public time to seek answers to numerous questions that have no been addressed in the Navy’s Environmental Assessment.
The public needs time to fairly evaluate the 5,000 pages of technical documentation used by the Navy in their Environmental Assessment plus more than 3,000 pages of public comment on the proposal.
We also need time to seek out answers to many unanswered questions including:
1. What are the potential adverse long term health effects on people and wildlife of the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the Navy’s new Growler aircraft and ground transmitters?
2. What are the adverse economic impacts to the people of the Olympic Peninsula and to the people of Washington State that would result from turning the Olympic Mountains into an electronic warfare range?
3. What is the closest elevation that a Growler aircraft would come to humans and wildlife in the Olympic National Forest? Is it really 1,200 feet (or less than one quarter of one mile)?
4. What is the maximum noise level that might result from Growler aircraft that are only 1200 feet above the surface? Is it really more than 140 decibels?
5. Would the maximum noise level of Growler aircraft cause serious harm to humans and/or wildlife in the Olympic peninsula?
6. Would the combination of increased electromagnetic radiation and/or increased noise lead to the extinction of endangered species such as spotted owls and marbled murrelets?
7. Is the Forest Service legally allowed to grant a Special Use Permit without holding official recorded public hearings in the communities of citizens who would be adversely affected by such a permit?
8. Have other affected agencies received adequate notice about his project? For example, the Navy claims it notified the Washington State DNR about this project. However, officials at the Washington State DNR claims that they were not notified.
They further claim that they have not granted the Navy a permit to use the 3 sites on State DNR forest land that have been indicated in the Navy EA. It is essential that agencies such as the State DNR and National Park Service be allowed time to review this proposal and provide comments on it.
9. Have elected officials in Washington State received adequate notice about this project?
One Congress person, Derek Kilmer, stated that he was notified but decided to take no position on this issue. However, this proposal not only affects the economic viability of the Olympic Peninsula, it affects the economic viability of the entire State of Washington.
People who visit the Olympic Peninsula fly in from all over the world and land at Seatac airport near Seattle. They stay at Seattle hotels and eat at Seattle restaurants.
They ride on the Washington State ferry system to the Kitsap Peninsula and then drive across the Hood Canal Bridge to the Olympic Peninsula. The total economic loss of this project could be $100 or more times more than three million tourists – or more than $300 million – a huge loss for the State of Washington.
Yet there has been no statement by the Governor of Washington and no statement by any member of the State legislature nor any statement by any other member of the Washington State Congressional Delegation on this project.
The people need time to seek comment from our elected officials as to whether they support or oppose this project before granting a permit on it.
10. If the Forest Service elects to ignore the harmful economic and environment effects that would occur by granting this permit, what is the process to appeal this decision? Is it true that a person or group must submit written comments opposing this project in order to have standing to appeal the decision? What is the appeal process? Who would the appeal be submitted to and when would the appeal need to be submitted by?
In addition to requesting that the Forest Service extend the Public Comment period to February 1 2015 in order to allow the public and our elected officials time to seek answers to these important questions, we should request that the Forest Service hold official Public Hearings on the proposal not only in affected communities in the Olympic Peninsula (such as Forks, Port Angeles, Sequim and Port Townsend), but also in affected communities across Washington State.
NEPA requires that official public hearings be held in all communities that might be adversely affected by a decision of any federal agency.
It is obvious that citizens in Seattle would be adversely impacted by this decision as there have been almost as many comments from Seattle citizens posted on the Forest Service Public Comment webpage as there have been comments from Olympic Peninsula citizens posted on the Public Comment webpage.
In particular, a Public Hearing should be held in Seattle Washington early in January 2015 in order to allow Seattle residents and elected officials to provide input to the Forest Service before the Forest Service makes a decision on this issue.
Holding a hearing in Seattle in early January would allow citizens in Seattle to provide written comments to the Forest Service by a February 1 2015 deadline.
NEPA refers to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Through this Act, the federal government recognized “each generation’s responsibility to act as a trustee of the environment for future generations.”
The Act mandates a coordination of all Federal plans, agencies, resources, policies, actions to put the protection of the environment as a law, in order to “assure for all Americans safe, healthful, productive and esthetically and culturally pleasing surroundings”, “without degradation, risk to health or safety, or other undesirable or unintended consequences” (42 U.S. Code 4331).
A military program of electronic warfare on public land qualifies as a major federal action and is thus subject to a public process under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, or NEPA. This process includes hearings in affected communities whenever there is environmental controversy.
These hearings must be in accordance with NEPA guidelines, which safeguard the public’s right to be heard. In addition, NEPA requires that federal agencies provide the latest available scientific evidence to back up any statements. This evidence must be thorough, accurate, and available for public scrutiny. Under the NEPA rules, your public comments must mention how the Navy’s EA violated NEPA.
This will make your comments “substantive”. Put the name of the project in heading:
PACIFIC NORTHWEST ELECTRONIC WARFARE RANGE.
To be part of the process, it is extremely important that submit your written comments at the Forest Service website before the deadline of November 28 2014 in order for you and your concerns to “have standing” which means that you will be able to comment LATER if/when there are appeals concerning the decision.
If you have already submitted comments, you can submit additional comments and include “substantive” objections. It is not required to include all the details of the argument.
Just point out that the Navy’s Environmental Assessment is in violation of a specific aspect of NEPA.
Any grievances the public has about electromagnetic warfare testing and training MUST be addressed in public comments first, in order to have legal standing, which means the Forest Service and the Navy were given notice that these grievances should be addressed.
If grievances are not rectified, any legal actions that follow would have more authority, because the Navy had been aware of the grievances yet chose not to address them.
Without legal standing, those legal actions on behalf of the public would likely have less authority due to the implication of no notice of grievance being given in public comments. NEPA is important because federal “agencies must address concerns regarding biodiversity and ecosystems within the EIS process.
Otherwise, the final EIS may be voided by a reviewing court, and the agency would be forced to refrain from its contemplated action while a new EIS is prepared.” NEPA requires that agencies take a “hard look” at the environmental effects of their planned activities, even after a proposal has received initial approval.
Application of the “rule of reason” thus turns on the value of the new information to the still pending decision making process…
If there remains “major Federal Action]” to occur, and if the new information is sufficient to show that the remaining action will “affect the quality of the human environment” in a significant manner or to a significant extent not already considered, a supplemental EIS must be prepared.”
“Rule of reason” ‘ set forth by the Supreme Court in Marsh v. Oregon Natural Resources Council. The court concluded that an environmental assessment that did not fully address issues critical to the survival of the spotted owl was not a valid assessment.
The mayor of Port Townsend, David King, stated:
“We haven’t received a formal notice of any kind about the development of an environmental impact statement. We have no knowledge of what they are doing.”
Some of the NEPA violations of the Navy electronic warfare plan include:
1. The Navy violated NEPA by their failure to adequately notify the public about their project. Neither the Navy nor the Forest Service placed a single notice in any local papers serving Olympic Peninsula communities. Thus the public did not receive adequate notice.
2. The Navy and the Forest Service violated NEPA by failing to hold public hearings and record public comments and allow sufficient time for comments and questions (normally regarded to be three minutes for all wishing to make comments). Instead, comments and questions were not recorded, were limited to only one minute and delaying tactics were used to deny more than half of those who attended an “informational” meeting to ask a question or make a comment. Hundreds of people were denied the right to have standing because their comments were not heard and/or not recorded. The public’s right to a full hearing is codified in the Code of Federal Regulations at 40 CFR, and in the State of Washington Revised Code, at RCW 42.30.
According to NEPA regulations, public meetings or hearings “…are required when there may be substantial environmental controversy concerning the environmental effects of the proposed action, a substantial interest in holding the meeting, or a request for a meeting by another agency with jurisdiction over the action.” (40 CFR 1506.6 (c)). Proper hearings under NEPA have not been held in affected communities, and the usual citizen’s right to register comments at public hearings has been denied. This is a denial of due process as stipulated in NEPA. Therefore the Navy and the Forest Service have violated NEPA.
3. The Navy violated NEPA by not notifying or consulting with Olympic National Park. This project will severely impact the wilderness experience for millions of visitors to the Park every year. By law, the National Park should have been consulted when the Navy was drafting their plans.
4. The Navy violated NEPA by not notifying or consulting with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. According to the State DNR, they were also not notified. Here is an edited version of a letter written by DNR staff:
Thanks for reaching out to me today on concerns regarding Navy electronic warfare training operations in the Olympic Peninsula on state lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The US Navy has not applied to DNR to use state lands in their proposed electronic warfare exercises.
They have no permission to do so from us, nor have they asked. At this point, it is not something that is under consideration unless there were such a proposal. Since we saw DNR being mentioned in this context, we wrote the attached letter to the Navy (please excuse the draft version; a signed version has been sent but I don’t have it handy).
In the letter, we made it explicit that we have not agreed to participate; that we have not decided to agree to participate if an application were filed; and that any proposal would have to comply with various environmental public processes and that we would have to assess any proposal to make sure that the proposed vetting process is sufficiently broad and thorough.
We also made it clear that these new exercises could not happen on existing Navy leases on state lands without further permitting. I hope this helps clear things up. Matthew Randazzo, Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of Public Lands Washington State Department of Natural
5. The Navy Environmental Assessment (EA) violated NEPA by not using the most recent and “best available science” in their conclusion that there will be “No Significant Impact” from chronic radiation as a result of their project.
Thousands of recent, peer-reviewed studies suggest there are very real harmful effects— both to humans and to wildlife— from man-made electromagnetic fields. In Section 188.8.131.52 of the Navy EA, the Navy claims that the noise and RF radiation from mobile emitters will not impact what the Environmental Assessment calls Biological Resources. This claim is based entirely on the premise that the mobile emitters are moving around the forest, so exposure at any one site is limited.
However, the 3 mobile units will be in operation from 8 to 16 hours per day, 260 days per year, among 15 different sites on the Olympic Peninsula.
According to the Navy EA, each mobile emitter site will average 11 training events per day, which also includes electronic detection and attack weapons from jets.
This is an average of 468 hours of electromagnetic radiation per site per year, or 195, 24-hour days per decade.
The Department of the Interior has criticized the FCC’s standards for cellphone radiation to be outmoded and no longer applicable as they do not adequately protect wildlife. See this 2014 study:
In addition, this project is to take place in critical habitats for species threatened with extinction, the Marbled Murrelet and the Northern Spotted Owl. Studies have not been conducted to investigate how this project might diminish these species chances to avoid extinction.
6. The Navy Environmental Assessment (EA) violated NEPA by failing to address the impacts this electromagnetic radiation will have on birds, bees, butterflies, and bats as well as the multitude of other small animals and insects.
Because the current worldwide Bee Colony Collapse is such a threat to our food security, the President of the United States has called for all government agencies, including the Department of Defense, to make the protection of pollinators a critical priority. Scientists have found that man-made Electromagnetic Radiation radically disrupts bees’ ability to navigate and find their way back to their hives.
Not only are there acknowledged threatened bird species in the area of the training range, the coastal area of the Olympic Peninsula is highly important to migrating birds on the Pacific flyway during the spring, late summer, and fall. Migrating birds would be affected by electromagnetic waves and loud sounds of aircraft.
These birds would include shorebirds of all types, including geese, ducks, etc. Without additional studies, these could seriously compromise the intent of the Migratory Bird Treaty.
The problem with electromagnetic pulse radiation (also called electromagnetic beam radiation) is also not adequately by the Navy: “beams of electromagnetic radiation (e.g., from EW training) may expose birds in flight to increased levels of radiation; however, the birds in flight would be moving through the area and potentially out of the area of the main beam, once again keeping them from continuous or long duration exposure (especially since non-soaring birds have relatively quick air speeds); and the beam pattern emitted is directional, which minimizes the area exposed to radiation. For these reasons, long term consequences to individual marbled murrelets and northern spotted owls or populations are not expected to result from proposed training activities.”
The Navy supplies no studies (as are required by NEPA) to back up this contention. The sites designated by the plan are on National Forest land. Some of which has been designated as protected areas for spotted owl and marbled murrelet. Marbled murrelets travel up to 50 miles from the forests on the coast to the sea to feed their young.
Extensive flight training [up to for 12 hours a day, up to 260 days a year] in this area would disturb, perhaps eradicate, these threatened birds. Scientists declare the need for further study on the subject of the impacts of towers and emitting radiation on migratory birds. i.e. “This briefing paper addresses the need to cumulatively assess the impacts of communication towers on migratory birds both from collisions and radiation, especially neotropical migratory songbirds that are most impacted (Shire et al. 2000).
The paper discusses some suggested research protocols needed to conduct a nationwide cumulative impacts analysis that would assess effects of tower collisions and radiation on avifauna and on other wildlife pollinators including bats and bees.” [Briefing Paper on the Need for Research into the Cumulative Impacts of Communication Towers on Migratory Birds and Other Wildlife in the United States Division of Migratory Bird Management (DMBM), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – for Public Release LAST UPDATED: April 17, 2009].
Because there is insufficient knowledge about the effects of electromagnetic waves on living organisms, we ask that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be provided for this proposal. Over one billion birds fly up and down the Pacific Coast each year on the Pacific Flyway.
Many of these birds might also be adversely impacted by the daily war games on the Washington Coast.
7. The Navy Environmental Assessment (EA) violated NEPA by not addressing the noise impact from the airplanes: The “soundscape” of Olympic National Park and the surrounding wilderness areas will be severely impacted by squadrons of noisy warplanes practicing overhead most days of the year. This noise will also greatly impact thousands of citizens’ “quality of life” who are forced to live directly underneath these practices. The Navy EA does not discuss the intensity of aircraft noise generated by this project.
There is no reporting of the noise that would be created by the jets while flying in the training range or the noise created by jets flying to and from the training range. There is no analysis of the impact that noise might have on endangered species other than the following:
“3.2.4 ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES
Noise from vehicle travel, generators/operation of emitters, and temporary demolition/construction (during the renovation of Building 104 and the construction of the MRES tower), may disturb wildlife…
As discussed in the Affected Environment section, the ESA-listed bird species that may occur in this portion of the project area are the northern spotted owl, and the marbled murrelet. Critical habitat has been designated for both species, and the Proposed Action overlaps with this critical habitat (Figure 3.2-5 and Figure 3.2-6).
The two stressors that could impact the birds are noise and electromagnetic radiation.”
ESA-Listed Birds: Marbled murrelets and Northern spotted owls in the project area may be temporarily disturbed by noise associated with the Proposed Action. While owls and murrelets may be disturbed by a wide variety of human activities, the USFWS has anticipated that harassment (or “take”) would occur when the species exhibit behavior that suggests that the safety or survival of the species is at risk, or that a reproductive effort is potentially lost or compromised (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2006).
These behaviors could include species flushing from the nest during incubation, brooding, or fledging, all of which could lead to egg failure or reduced juvenile survival. Abandonment of the nest during a feeding or delaying a feeding could also lead to reduced survival of the juvenile.
Recent biological opinions for forest management activities in the Olympic National Forest have noted that these behaviors are likely to occur when (1) aircraft noise exceeds 92 decibels Sound Exposure Level (SEL) at a nest site, or aircraft approach within a distance of 110 yards (yd.), whichever is greater; and (2) ground-based activity occurs during the nesting season within 100 m (110 yd.) of a nest site” (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2013). [PACIFIC NORTHWEST EW RANGE EA FINAL (SEPTEMBER 2014]”
The Navy fraudulently claimed in their EA that their Growler Jets will have a noise level of 65 – well below the 85 decibels which can lead to permanent hearing loss and well below 92 decibels that would trigger a review.
In fact, numerous measurements including those taken by the Navy’s own auditor confirm that the Growler Jets emit noise between 120 to 150 decibels. Here is a link to one of these studies confirming Growler jets with noise levels as high as 134 decibels:
The Navy has promised that the minimum altitude they will be flying over land is 1200 feet. That has been frequently contradicted by hikers on mountainous forest trails, who have reported seeing jets fly past beneath them. According to the Navy’s own figures, a Growler jet flying at 1000 feet produces a “Single Event Level” of 113 decibels, which is enough to damage hearing and cause medical problems in people subjected to it. In the Roosevelt-Okanogan Military Training Area the Navy is authorized to fly at 300 feet above ground level. It is not clear what would prevent them from authorizing that lower altitude in the Olympic National Forest.
As a result of the Navy’s apparent underestimation of sound levels caused by jets, the effects of loud noise on threatened and endangered species in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion for the Navy, which was begun in 2009 and issued in 2010, may be based on inaccurate or misleading information from the Navy. If this is indeed the case, that the Fish and Wildlife Service was given inaccurate or misleading information on which to base its evaluation of biological impacts, then the Biological Opinion should be considered invalid and formal consultation re-initiated under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, using actual sound measurements from real jets.
Providing deliberately misleading information to a federal agency is also considered a form of fraud or false statement under US Code, Chapter 47. There may be other applicable laws that were violated.
eMail the Olympic National Forest Supervisor in Olympia, Reta Laford at - email@example.com