"By ANGELO BRUSCAS
North Coast News
PACIFIC BEACH — The town with the most direct impact from the Navy’s proposal to expand electronic warfare training in the Olympic National Forest finally had a public meeting on the plan Wednesday night with more than 175 people in attendance and citizens largely voicing their opposition.
A five-person team that included a 22-year veteran Navy pilot defended the military agency’s finding in August that the project would have no significant environmental impact, and said they had attempted to use the best available science in a process that met all the requirements called for in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Citizens, however, questioned the Navy and two opponents of the project for more than two hours on Wednesday at Pacific Beach Elementary School about a decision that many felt was irreversible and done without proper public notice, comment or study.
Grays Harbor County Commissioner Wes Cormier moderated the meeting.
While some in the audience came from as far as Olympia, Forks and Seattle to address the Navy plan, local concerns focused on the need for emergency service agreements, possible disruption of communication services in and around Pacific Beach, the impact it could have on the frequency of sonic booms and air traffic as well as why more notice wasn’t given of the proposed activity.
“We live here. If we had moved to Whidbey Island or SeaTac, we would expect the noise of the flights. We didn’t expect it here,” said North Beach resident Gina Rawlings.
Shari Curtright of Grays Harbor Fire District No. 8 in Moclips/Pacific Beach questioned what considerations the Navy had given to fire and emergency response, which would largely fall to District No. 8. She noted the fire district currently does not have a mutual aid agreement with the Pacific Beach Navy site, which surprised the Navy panel members.
“We want something in writing about what we are supposed to do if that thing is activated,” Curtright said.
The Navy is preparing to use facilities at Pacific Beach to construct a new tower capable of generating an electromagnetic wave as part of what is being proposed as the Pacific Northwest Electronic Warfare Range or MOA (military operating range).
The tower would be capable of generating an electromagnetic wave at frequencies ranging from 2 to 18 gigahertz (GHz) and it would be able to emit up to 64 simultaneous signals while transmitting in pulses or a continuous wave, the Navy’s already completed environmental assessment states. The Navy has said it would not have a significant impact on the public or the community and would be part of a larger plan to install and operate an electronic warfare range in which aircraft, ships and submarines can practice and have that information communicated and analyzed in a central location. Also, the Navy plan is to use mobile emitters at various locations, including several in Grays Harbor County and north of the Quinault Indian Nation.
The intent is to have the project up and running by September 2015. The Navy still needs permission from the U.S. Forest Service and the state Department of Natural Resources for use of roads in remote areas where the mobile units would travel and set up.
Recent public meetings on the proposal also were conducted in Forks and Port Angeles, and there appears to be growing opposition to the plan as the Navy tries to complete the process.
The Forest Service declined an invitation to attend the Pacific Beach meeting, but the Navy sent a team of five members.
John Mosher, Northwest Environmental Program Manager for the Navy, told the crowd that many people may be unfamiliar with what electronic warfare is.
“It is something that the military has been doing for a very long time,” he said. It involves the use of electromagnetic equipment that is in turn used to “impede our enemy’s use of certain electronic equipment.”
“It is critical in protecting our aircraft and our forces on the ground,” Mosher said. “And just about every aspect of military operations these days involves electronic warfare in one form or another.”
The training sites, including the ones in the National Forest where the mobile emitters will set up in remote locations, have been reviewed by the Navy and will be used on a rotating basis. The idea is to simulate on the ground what potential adversaries might be using to communicate, and the aircraft flying above then try to locate such equipment, Mosher explained.
The Navy has concluded that the electromagnetic waves would be no significant harm to people or animals, and would be focused and beamed into the sky.
“The equipment we are proposing to use is very similar to other pieces of commercially and publicly available equipment that you will see and you are exposed to on a daily basis,” Mosher said. He likened it to a TV broadcasting van, or marine radar.
Mosher said the Navy wants “to be a good neighbor” with the community and is committed to it. He noted the project will result in the addition of jobs and construction at the Pacific Beach Naval facility.
“So we have obligations to the community and we feel like we have open lines of communication,” he said.
Just because the environmental assessment found no significant impact, that doesn’t mean “game over,” Mosher added. “Long term, we are committed to working with the local community to make sure we are not affecting your communications systems.”
The Navy too, he said, relies on the local 911 emergency services center and local emergency service providers. Also, he noted the plan must have approval of the FCC and other agencies.
Karen Sullivan, a project opponent who lives on the Olympic Peninsula and is a former employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, countered many of the Navy’s points and questioned the findings with respect to impact on humans as well as wildlife, in particular how it might affect threatened species that use the forest, such as marbled murrelets and northern spotted owls. She noted the testing period will be extended from eight hours a day to as much as 16 hours, and suggested there are other places with more air space the Navy could use.
“So if the Navy says that it needs the Olympic National Forest for training, which happens to be next to a world heritage site in the Olympic National Park, it has to prove that it has no alternative places to go,” Sullivan said, contending she cannot find sufficient proof in the current environmental assessment.
Kent Mathes, Northwest Training Range Complex Program Manager, said the current plan represents the “best alternative,” and the purpose is to train pilots at the very basic level so they are able to move on for more advanced training elsewhere before being called into battle.
“This is all very simplistic use of electronic warfare,” he said, noting there are currently about 1,200 flights per year over the area. The estimate is the number would increase about 10 percent with the new training transmissions.
“This is just going to be a very small portion of the flights that are already going on,” Mathes said.
Pacific Beach resident Melody Emery, who works for cable TV provider Coast Communications, said the government’s existing weather radar at Langley Hill on the North Beach and some shipping radar can affect television satellite reception.
Mathes, however, said the type of transmission the Navy plans to emit has been reviewed by 22 federal agencies and there should be no interference issue with civil broadcasting or receiving.
“Where you are probably seeing a lot of this interference is with these public bands where there is not this rigorous process that we have to go through,” he said.
“The equipment we are going to have is very directional, discreet, and it will be pointed toward the aircraft in a very narrow beam. It’s the difference between a flashlight and a porch light,” he said.
Navy pilot Cmdr. Brian Danielson trains pilots at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, where he has been stationed for 17 years. He said there is no part of the plan that calls for the Navy to exceed the air space it already uses in training missions currently flown over the sites.
“The current space that we are using right now is capped at 6,000 feet,” the Navy pilot said. “We can’t go any lower and we won’t go any lower. There is no plan to do anything differently with regards to going lower, being louder, faster. What we are looking to do with these things is have them simulate a radar and use our systems to detect and locate where they are.”
He encouraged residents to report any instances where pilots exceed the sound barrier or appear to be flying too low, and said reports could be made online through Naval Station Whidbey Island, which controls the training area. Noise complaints can be directed to NAS Whidbey Island’s new comment line at (360) 257-6665, or via e-mail: comments.NASWI@navy.mil.
Sullivan acknowledged that there were no public comments received during the environmental assessment period conducted by the Navy, largely because communities were not notified with the exception of a few newspaper legal ads.
“The finding of no significant impact is supposed to have public input. There was none,” she said.
The Forest Service has extended the comment period on the plan and permits to use the forest until Nov. 28. To comment online: https://cara.ecosystem- management.org/Public/CommentInput? Project=42759
The Forest Service also has the full environmental assessment of the Navy’s plan online: http://data.ecosystem-management.org/nepaweb/nepa_project_exp.php?projec..."
Reta Laford knows all the tricks to make sure that the NEPA laws work for what the NAVY and USFS wants. Your health and the protection of the forest, mammals, waterways and delicate eco-system of the Olympic National Forest will not be a problem.
Reta Laford is perhaps the best in the nation at NEPA and this means Mother Earth LOSES.
More Research Links on Olympic National Forest Supervisor, Reta Laford
Reta "Laford worked in the Eastern Regional Office in the NEPA, Appeals, and Litigation program areas (2000-2002). With the exception of a one-year assignment as Environmental Coordinator for the Manti-La Sal National Forest, she was the Prescott National Forest’s Environmental Coordinator from 1995 to 2000. She has also been a District Forester, NEPA Coordinator, and Staff Officer for Planning/Heritage/GIS (1989-1995). "
Reta Laford is very experienced at doing what it takes to ensure that "Environmentalists" are shut down; be it a Timber Sale, Warfare machine, river toxins, mining or any other environmental concern that gets in the way of greed, money, and the destruction of Mother Earth as is often the agenda of the USFS.
"Finding of No Significant Impact" Seems to be her standard.
Reta Laford has built her career in direct opposition to the actual needs of Mother Earth and the Environment. She is a NEPA expert, hence the Olympic National Forest is the best place to bring her to be the supervisor. Right in the heart of all the liberal Tree Huggers that want to breath fresh air, NOT be attacked by Electronic Warfare, want Clean Soil, Clean Air and Clean Water. She is an expert in ensuring that we don't get that.
"Reta Laford, Deputy Forest Supervisor ... Training for cooperating agencies on the NEPA process. "
Work with Idaho Senator Mike Crapo
Much more on Reta Laford, NEPA and the issues in the Olympic National Forest Coming Soon.