The U.S. Navy is asking the public to weigh in on a proposed naval special operations plan for western Washington, including along the shoreline in Jefferson County, during an open house in Port …
The U.S. Navy is asking the public to weigh in on a proposed naval special operations plan for western Washington, including along the shoreline in Jefferson County, during an open house in Port Townsend set for 5-8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3.
The Blue Heron Middle School commons is the venue for the outreach meeting, during which people can learn about, and offer their input on, the proposed training activities and locations from on-site Navy representatives, without the formality of presentations or comment sessions.
Sheila Murray, public affairs deputy for Navy Region Northwest, said the Navy is proposing to conduct small-unit land and maritime training activities, intended to teach trainees the skills needed to avoid detection, as well as how not to leave any trace of their presence during or after their activities.
“The Navy has already been training in the Pacific Northwest for more than 70 years, including the past 30 years of naval special operations training,” Murray said. “Puget Sound, including Hood Canal, and the southwestern Washington coast offer unique conditions, which create opportunities for realistic and challenging special operations training in a safe, sheltered, cold-water environment.”
Murray elaborated that the proposed training would consist of diving and swimming, inserting and extracting trainees using small watercraft, launching and recovering small watercraft, moving on foot over the beach, hiking to an observation point and using observation techniques while remaining hidden, and conducting high-angle climbing.
The proposed training would also include clearing areas by using paint pellets as simulated munitions, but only in limited locations, in addition to using small unmanned aircraft systems on military installations, designated warning areas or restricted airspace.
“It would occur on selected nearshore lands and in the inland waters of Puget Sound, including Hood Canal, as well as the southwestern Washington coast,” Murray said. “Training activities would be scheduled at sites compatible with those training requirements. Only selected sites would be used for each training event, and some sites might not be used annually. The proposed training would occur on private, public, state and Department of Defense lands, but only with the permission of the landowners or managers.”
In 2016, Washington State Parks issued a right-of-entry permit to the U.S. Navy that allows nighttime training exercises at five state parks, including Fort Flagler State Park and Mystery Bay State Park.
NO LIVE AMMUNITION
The proposed training does not include the use of live-fire ammunition, explosive demolitions, manned air operations, off-road driving, vegetation cutting, digging, tree climbing, or the building of camp fires or infrastructure. The Navy would not build training devices or structures at any site during the proposed training activities.
Murray recommended that those with questions check an online fact sheet on the project website at:
navfac.navy.mil/NSOEA. (This website can be difficult to access. Check ptleader.com for the fact sheet, which accompanies the online story.)
“Once you pull up the fact sheet, scroll down to the map,” Murray said. “The Navy would like to have agreements with public and private owners for on-land training on approximately 25 to 30 percent of the shoreline identified in purple on the map, excluding Navy-owned lands. Even with agreements in place, not all the sites would be needed or used in one year. This discussion is where coming to the meetings will be helpful.”