Austin not worried about Navy's warfare training plans

By Nicholas Johnson of the Leader
Posted 10/14/14

Jefferson County's commissioner representing West End residents says he has no intention of commenting on the U.S. Navy's proposed $11.5 million electronic warfare training project set to begin in …

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Austin not worried about Navy's warfare training plans

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Jefferson County's commissioner representing West End residents says he has no intention of commenting on the U.S. Navy's proposed $11.5 million electronic warfare training project set to begin in September 2015.

“My initial thought is that if we were going to ask our Navy to fly into an area with such a hazard, they should be given the proper training,” said John Austin, D-Port Ludlow, adding that he has received few comments from his constituents on the matter. “From what I've seen so far, I wouldn't want to deny these pilots the chance to get this training. We want to provide effective training to the military personnel that we send into harm's way, period. I've been in the military, and if you are going to send people into dangerous places, you want them to be trained for it.”

The window for submitting public comment on the Pacific Northwest Electronic Warfare Range project's environmental assessment was set to end Friday, Oct. 10, but was extended to Oct. 31 in light of a meeting Tuesday evening, Oct. 14 in Forks, where the public had a chance to question Navy and Forest Service officials.

The project was set to receive its permit from the Forest Service in September after Dean Millett, district ranger for the Pacific District of Olympic National Forest, agreed with the Navy's finding of no significant impact in its environmental assessment, which can be reviewed at go.usa.gov/kQ6e.

The project, which would be the Navy's first use of mobile emitters of electromagnetic radiation for training that pilots currently simulate with internal aircraft controls, requires a special-use permit from the Forest Service in order to use its roads during exercises.

Aircraft from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island would conduct the training in targeting electromagnetic radiation emitted from as many as three camper-sized vehicles deployed to 15 sites in Clallam, Jefferson and Grays Harbor counties.

Seven of those sites would be in Jefferson County, just north of the Quinault Reservation and 15 miles southeast of Forks. Four would be in Grays Harbor County, while another three would be about 10 miles northeast of Forks in Clallam County.

Communications equipment would be installed at a 16th site at an existing government communications facility on Octopus Mountain in Clallam County.

Austin said the Navy has done its due diligence to keep the public informed.

“Unless I hear something about our citizens being put at risk, I would certainly not interfere with the Navy's efforts to train these pilots,” he said.

The Navy acknowledged in its environmental assessment that extended exposure to the radiation could cause health hazards, and has said exposure of 15 minutes or more could cause damage to the liquid tissue of the eyes. Navy personnel have said protective measures will keep the public and wildlife safe.

The truck-mounted emitters would be at least 14 feet above the ground and would be required to shut down if a person or animal is detected within 100 feet. The trucks would be surrounded by warning tape at a radius of 101 feet.

Navy officials have compared the radio frequencies to be emitted to the microwave emitters used by television vans at sporting events that broadcast signals to parent stations.

Navy officials have said the training will allow air crews to detect and process radio signals they might encounter in hostile territory.

Public comments can be emailed to Greg Wahl, Forest Environmental Coordinator with the Forest Service, at

gtwahl@fs.fed.us, or sent to Wahl at 1835 Black Lake Blvd. S.W., Olympia, WA 98512.

A petition opposing the project has garnered more than 1,350 signatures. It is online at

chn.ge/1w6NvmB.

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