December 26, 2014
To: chair, local tribe………
From: Michael Monson, President, Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve
Re: Impacts of US Navy Warfare Training on Salish Sea, Olympic National Forest and Park
A growing coalition of organizations in the Northern Puget Sound and Olympic Peninsula is coming together to oppose the Navy’s plans for expanded warfare training in the Pacific Northwest. The Navy’s warfare training is part of the massive military build-up taking place in our region. This warfare training and increased Naval operations will impact all of us. We hope the Tribe will consider this issue and join in our efforts to protect people and the precious natural resources we all value.
Central to this growing controversy are the EA-18G (Growler) fighter jets that are already impacting Puget Sound’s northern islands–Whidbey and the San Juans–hammering homes, schools, businesses and parks. The Navy currently has 80 Growler jets operating out of Whidbey Island, but that number is expected to grow to as high as 118. These electronic warfare jets, the loudest ever built (150 decibels), each burn 1,304 gallons/hour, producing 12.5 metric tons of CO2 hourly or 23% more than the annual CO2 emissions of a Washington State citizen.
Now the Navy wants to spread its Growler noise-print all over the Olympic Peninsula’s National Park, the surrounding national forest, and adjacent communities. The Navy plans to take and periodically close large swathes of the Olympic National Forest, along with airspace over it and the Olympic National Park, for its Northwest Electromagnetic Radiation Warfare training program. It already performs this training on four bases in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Nevada, but now says it needs the Olympic Peninsula because it wants ALL Growlers to be home-based at Whidbey Naval Air Station.
These jets will fly directly over North Olympic Peninsula communities and cities for 260 days per year, to do 2,900 training exercises for 8-16 hours per day at 15 locations using equipment that emits enough electromagnetic radiation to melt eye tissue after brief exposure. In addition, the Growler jets have the capacity to jam all electronic signals, including cellphones, navigational equipment, radio stations and 911 and fire-rescue communications, and they carry electronic attack weapons that include lasers, high-powered microwaves, electromagnetic radiation, and anti-radiation devices that use concentrated, directed beams of energy. A Navy supporting document says, “Friendly Electronic Attack could potentially deny essential services to a local population that, in turn, could result in loss of life and/or political ramifications.”
No public notices were published in any media that directly serve the northern and western Olympic Peninsula. In the absence of public comment, the Navy issued a “Finding of No Significant Impact.” No official public hearings were held in any of the affected communities. Instead, the Navy and Forest Service held “informational meetings” in 3 communities, but public comments were never recorded. The use of electronic attack weaponry was never discussed in the Navy’s documentation. The Forest Service has admitted publicly that it has done no independent scientific investigation to verify the Navy’s claims.
The Navy is authorized to fly at 6000 feet above mean sea level, but the ground rises in mountains. In some areas they will be flying at 1200 feet. Navy statistics for older jets say they produce 113 decibels at an altitude of 1000 feet, which is well above the 85 decibel threshold for permanent hearing loss. In a 2009 jet noise study, the Navy admits that its own personnel remain at high risk for hearing loss. Aircraft aerial maneuvers and their resulting horrific noise on the western half of the Olympic Peninsula will have an overwhelming impact on people living in or visiting the area. A National Park Service report issued in July 2014 showed that in 2013, 3,085,340 visitors to Olympic National Park spent $245,894,100 in communities near the park–spending that supported 2,993 local jobs.
One billion birds fly up and down the Pacific Coast Flyway each year. The effects of loud noise and electromagnetic radiation on their ability to find resting places and to navigate has not been analyzed by the Navy or the Forest Service. In both wildlife and humans, effects from loud noise include hearing loss, increased stress hormones, cardiovascular disease, immune system compromise and psychosocial impacts.
It is too often said that the Navy will do what it wants, no matter what people say. We don’t believe this to be true. There is much we can do, and more we can do together. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and other members of your tribe to provide additional information and answers to your questions.
President, Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve