Group files lawsuit against Navy training in Olympic National Forest

A new lawsuit is challenging a decision by the U.S. Forest Service to let the Navy use Olympic National Forest for electronic-warfare training exercises.

The Forest Service in July issued the Navy a special permit that will allow the U.S. Navy “to conduct ground-to-air training using mobile electronic transmitters from eleven designated roadside locations on the Pacific Ranger District of the Olympic National Forest for a period of up to five years”.

The transmitters would engage in exercises with radar-jamming jet pilots from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

A group called Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics sued over the decision in U.S. District Court on Friday. It says the Forest Service failed to consider whether the transmitters could be parked on private land instead, or whether the Navy’s use of the land is compatible with the public’s enjoyment of the land.

In November, The U.S. Forest Service has issued a draft decision that found “No Significant Impact” on the area if the Navy were to expand its local electronic warfare training.

They say that “No significant public health or safety impacts would occur as a result of the training exercises”.

The Forest Service states that they looked at the proposed actions on the permit and the standard operation procedures of the Navy, as well as potential impacts on local wildlife. They say that “The project effects are not anticipated to result in significant disruption to species. The decision is not expected to significantly impact users’ recreation experience”.

The Navy is planning for an $11.5 million expansion of its electronic-warfare range activities. This includes the deployment of three mobile, camper-sized electromagnetic transmitters on Olympic National Forest logging roads in Clallam, Jefferson and Grays Harbor counties.

Locations would be used within in Olympic National Forest with three other sites on Department of Natural Resources land and all aircraft would be flown in from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

4 of the sites originally proposed were in Grays Harbor.

These trucks would be parked on the rural roads on normal weekdays for 8 to 16 hours a day.

The trucks would only be driven on already established roads and would not be used for any activity beyond broadcasting from those locations. All of the areas would be blocked off with barriers and signs warning the public that the emitters are operating and that there could be an “Electromagnetic Radiation Hazard”.

Local training was proposed to occur throughout the year, an average of around 11 exercises each day the emitters are used, for a total of approximately 2,900 training events.

Along with local forestland, and increased air traffic, the project would install a large emitter at the Pacific Beach Naval Annex.

A special use permit requires that emitters be shut down or moved if people are within the 100-foot safety zone around the trucks. If one of the locations is already occupied by campers, hunters, or animals when they arrive, they would relocate to one of the alternate sites.

The Forest Service did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.

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