Navy sued for allegedly withholding Growler info

Posted 5/8/19

Shortly after the start of May, the U.S. Navy was hit with a lawsuit claiming it’s been insufficiently responsive in the face of Freedom of Information Act requests regarding its EA-18G “Growler” jets’ training exercises over Olympic National Park.

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Navy sued for allegedly withholding Growler info

Posted

Shortly after the start of May, the U.S. Navy was hit with a lawsuit claiming it’s been insufficiently responsive in the face of Freedom of Information Act requests regarding its EA-18G “Growler” jets’ training exercises over Olympic National Park.

The suit was filed May 2 by the National Parks Conservation Association, represented by the Earthrise Law Center at the Lewis & Clark Law School, along with Smith & Lowney PLLC, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle.

Matt Abele, West Coast communications manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, noted that the Navy had released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement last month, opening a public comment period for the extension of training operations over the Olympic Peninsula to 2025.

He added that his group’s lawsuit is requesting materials that it charges the Navy with “withholding” from the public, especially given the potential for the Navy to increase the frequency of its flights.

Abele believes this information would afford the public “a better understanding of noise impacts, and provide thorough responses” during the public comment period.

Abele recounted how the National Parks Conservation Association submitted its first Freedom of Information Act request in 2016, to determine the impacts of the Navy’s training exercises over what he described as “one of the quietest places in the lower 48 states.”

Rob Smith, Northwest Regional Director for the National Parks Conservation Association, acknowledged the Navy’s training needs, but he does not believe they supersede the importance of preserving the pristine wildlife and environment of the Hoh Rain Forest.

“Unfortunately, the Navy has forced us to go to court, due to their failure to provide the documentation necessary for NPCA and the public to make informed comments on the impacts of their latest proposal,” Smith said.

Smith and Abele cited the appeal of the Olympic National Park, which they deemed “the most popular national park in the Northwest,” attracting more than 3.1 million visitors in 2018, in no small part because its lack of “noise-pollution,” one of the factors that earned it a World Heritage Site designation for its internationally significant landscape.

“The park is full of natural sounds, such as the whistles of the Olympic Marmot and bugling call of the Roosevelt Elk,” Smith said. “However, the tranquility of the park has already been disrupted by the periodic roar of Navy Growler jets, one of the loudest aircraft in the skies.”

Smith warned that the Navy could increase the number of flights over the Olympics to 5,000 per year. NPCA has long fought to protect the soundscape for the wildlife and park visitors who come here to enjoy the peace and solitude.

Julianne Stanford serves as the environmental public affairs specialist for Navy Region Northwest, and while she told The Leader that the Navy could not comment on pending litigation, she did note the eight open house public meetings the Navy has conducted in Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska, from April 24 through May 8, as well as the fact that the Navy had already extended the public review and comment period for the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement an additional 15 days, to June 12.

The Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is available for the public to view at the Jefferson County Library at Port Hadlock and the Port Townsend Public Library, as well as online at NWTTEIS.com.

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