- Associated Press - Sunday, May 17, 2015

PORT ANGELES, Wash. (AP) - The U.S. Forest Service says a flood of public comments is delaying its decision on whether to grant the Navy a permit for expanded electronic-warfare training on the Olympic Peninsula.

The Forest Service had planned to make a decision on the Navy’s special-use permit application by September, The Peninsula Daily News reports (https://is.gd/t2BJyI ). But now the agency is hiring a third-party contractor to handle the more than 3,300 comments it received - most of them expressing opposition over concerns such as jet noise or electromagnetic radiation.

No decision is expected before early next year, agency spokesman Glen Sachet said. “That’s what’s taken the extra time: the number of comments and understanding how big a job that’s going to be to analyze those comments,” he said.

The Navy is planning for an $11.5 million expansion of its electronic-warfare range activities, including the deployment of three mobile, camper-sized electromagnetic transmitters on 12 Olympic National Forest logging roads in Clallam, Jefferson and Grays Harbor counties. The transmitters would interact with EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft that are stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

Navy aircraft already conduct internal simulated targeting exercises over the North Olympic Peninsula, with its 82 carrier-based Growlers making 1,200 jet overflights per year. The Navy’s plans call for increasing the number of flights by up to 10 percent, with aircraft flying between 10,000 to 35,000 feet in altitude.

The Navy has said the project will not have a significant impact on noise, public health and safety, biological resources or air quality in Olympic National Forest - a determination that many residents question.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, a Port Angeles native whose district includes much of the Olympic Peninsula, asked the Federal Interagency Committee on Aviation Noise to study the impact on Navy jet noise over Olympic National Park in light of “the potential for increased noise.”

“I want the government to use the latest science to ensure the soundscape and environment of this iconic landscape is protected and respected,” Kilmer wrote.


Information from: Peninsula Daily News, https://www.peninsuladailynews.com

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