Resolutions opposing Navy warfare in civilian areas pass in three western WA counties. But there’s bad news for whales.
On Sunday, May 1, official resolutions opposing the Navy’s plans and highlighting their lack of regard for public health and the environment were passed (most of them unanimously) at Democratic County Conventions in Jefferson, Clallam, and San Juan Counties. Click on the county names to read the draft versions as submitted. The Clallam County resolution calls for the Navy to abandon its plans for an electronic warfare range over our communities and public lands; the Jefferson County resolution calls for a complete EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) on the electronic warfare range and a chance for authentic participation by the public, and the far more detailed resolution from San Juan County lays out a set of actions that must be taken in order to preserve public health and environmental and economic integrity.
Does public opposition get results? Yes.
1.) The Army has withdrawn its request to use the North Cascades for combat helicopter landings due to public opposition. Senator Patty Murray helped on that one, so now it’s time to ask for her help with the Navy encroachment.
2.) The Forest Service has pushed back the permit for the mobile emitters on Olympic National Forest roads by 21 months, for the same reason. Latest news is the “objection period” for letters from the public will start in June, in preparation for their September decision announcement.
3.) As of May 3, 2016, the Navy still hasn’t signed its final Record of Decision on the ocean-based part of its activities described in its October 2015 EIS, called Northwest Training and Testing, because the Endangered Species Biological Opinion by the Fish and Wildlife Service is still not complete. The USFWS is keenly aware of public concerns, and this 7-month delay is unprecedented.
4.) The Navy also pushed back their Draft EIS on Growler jets to autumn, for reasons that are unclear.
5.) News media are picking up on military encroachment on public lands, waters and in skies over our communities, and on the ethical lapses leading to wrongdoing. Our media page is frequently updated with stories.
List of ways the public is getting results:
- Presentations to various local commissions, health boards and Tribes: Several
- Public presentations in various locations: at least 15
- Social media sites: at least 8
- Numbers of opposition groups formed: At least 20
- Letters to editors of local papers: Too many to be counted
- Written public comments to Forest Service: 4,000
- Written public comments accepted by Forest Service: 3,300
- Written public comments accepted by Navy for official record: 1054
- Written and oral public comments not accepted by Navy: At least 1,000
- Form letters of objection to Navy: 9,700
- Petitions objecting to proposed Navy activities: At least 5
- Numbers of petition signatures: At least 150,000.
- County resolutions passed: at least 4 (including two in 24th Legislative District)
- Number of news articles/op-eds in 2014: 5
- (including L.A. Times piece on this topic flying under the public radar)
- Number of news articles/op-eds in March-April 2015: 38
- Number of news articles/op-eds in March-April 2016: 59
Opposing unfair decisions by our government still works.
All those letters to editors you’ve been writing, all the letters to politicians at national and local levels, all that sharing of posts on social media, plus comments on what few public documents we are allowed to comment on, and calls to officials when Navy jets fly too low, are helping to increase public momentum.
But you might want to be sitting down when you read the next part.
Using baseline and projected figures listed in the Navy’s Northwest Training and Testing EIS (Environmental Impact Statement,) and from NOAA’s permits for the Navy to “take” marine mammals, the West Coast Action Alliance crunched the numbers. A “take” is a single action to a single animal on a sliding scale of harm ranging from harassment to death. Obviously, most takes are on the harassment end of the scale, but some injuries and deaths are included.
The problem is, when you realize multiple harassment incidents to the same animal are allowed, such as more than 60,000 takes on a population of 21,000 gray whales, and when you realize that sonar at 235 decibels at the ship source can still be a harmful 140 decibels at 300 miles from the source, it adds up to an ugly picture where injury to sensitive tissues and multiple hazings out of important feeding areas are far more likely.
These new levels of Navy activity are a lot more impactful than the Navy’s simplistic claims of “no significant impacts” reveal. Among the increases:
72% increase in electronic warfare operations,
244% increase in air combat maneuvers (dogfighting)
400% increase in air-to-surface missile exercises (including Olympic National Marine Sanctuary),
400% increase in helicopter tracking exercises,
778% increase in number of torpedoes in inland waters,
3,500% increase in number of sonobuoys,
72% increase in chaff dropped from aircraft (contains tiny glass fibers and more than a dozen metals,)
1,150% increase in drone aircraft,
1,150% increase in drone surface vehicles,
1,450% increase in expendable devices.
These are just a few. The EIS can be read here; the figures came from Volume 1.
The numbers of takes for whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and sea lions are horrific:
For the Northwest Training and Testing Range, Northern California to Southeast Alaska: 1.2 million.
For the Hawaii-Southern California area: 9.4 million.
For the Gulf of Alaska: 2.1 million
For the Marianas Islands in the western Pacific: 393,000.
Total takes for just 4 EIS’s (does not include the dozens of other projects the Navy is doing): nearly 12 million.
What can you do?
1.) Circulate this information; most people are still not fully aware of the situation. If everyone shares this post on social media and forwards this email to 10, 25, 100 people, it will make a big difference.
2.) Keep writing those letters and comments. Addresses are here.
3.) Stay informed on the issue. Besides the West Coast Action Alliance’s web site, check the sites of our friends across the country. And if you’re wondering why our elected officials have been so silent, read this recent post and call them out on the bargain they made at our expense.
4.) Attend the special showing of “Sonic Sea,” an important new documentary film about reducing the impact of harmful ocean noise. Two cast members of international acclaim will be with us: Dr. Ken Balcomb III, Executive Director, Center for Whale Research, and Michael Jasny, Director, Marine Mammal Protection, Natural Resources Defense Council. May 23 from 7-9pm at Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2333 San Juan Ave, Port Townsend, WA. $10 donation suggested. Watch the trailer.
5.) Continue asking our government to listen to us, the voters. Our only recourse to change their ways is going to be from political, legal and public outreach in which more people realize what’s happening, and more voices are raised in many ways until the fulcrum of public opposition tips the balance back to where it belongs: on the voice of ordinary citizens.
You are an important part of the equation.
The West Coast Action Alliance.