Kilmer questions Navy on Olympics testing, training

Washington Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-6th District) pressed the Navy last week for answers on the impacts of training and testing missions on the Olympic Peninsula and off the Washington coast.

In a letter to Sean Stackley, acting Secretary of the Navy, Kilmer asked for further clarification on recent activity near Olympic National Park and surrounding communities.

In a series of questions to the Navy, Kilmer asked how public comments were incorporated into the environmental review for projects like EA-18G Growler flights and electronic range testing involving Navy aircraft. He also questioned whether the Navy has worked with other agencies to most effectively measure how much jet noise can be heard on the Olympic Peninsula.

Kilmer wrote in the letter: “Given your agency’s mission, I request assistance in further understanding your recent and ongoing efforts impacting Washington’s Sixth Congressional District. Like many of my neighbors, I want my kids, and their kids to enjoy the pristine environment that I have been privileged to experience.”

The issue has been raised for several years since the Navy announced it was expanding its warfare testing over the area.

In November 2014, a hearing in Pacific Beach drew more than 175 people, with many voicing opposition to the training plans.

Local concerns included possible disruption of communication services in and around Pacific Beach, the impact it could have on the frequency of sonic booms and air traffic — and why more notice wasn’t given of the proposed activity.

The purpose is to train pilots at a basic level so they are able to move on for more advanced training elsewhere. In 2014, the Navy said there were about 1,200 flights per year over the area. The estimate at the time was that the number of flights would increase about 10 percent.

Noise complaints can be directed to NAS Whidbey Island’s comment line at 360-257-6665 or via email at comments.NASWI@navy.mil.

Kilmer listed a number of specific questions, including:

• Have any of the reviews included steps that skipped public comment periods where required by law, regulation, or practice?

 Has the Navy modified the EA-18G Growler Airfield Operations at NAS Whidbey Island and OLF Coupeville, the Northwest Training and Testing (NWTT), and Electronic Warfare Range projects following the receipt of public comments? If so, please share which proposed actions were modified and how.

 Is the Navy required under the 1988 Master Agreement to substantiate the need for Defense Department use of non-military lands by providing the public with a report that DOD-owned lands are unsuitable or unavailable? If so, how was this requirement fulfilled for the proposed electronic warfare training project?

 We have heard claims that the number of EA-18G aircraft may be increased to 160. Is this true? If so, what is the schedule for increasing the number to this level over time?

 What specific reasons dictate the Navy using the Military Operational Areas (MOAs) over the Olympic Peninsula instead of others in the region? Specifically, for the electronic warfare range proposal, what is the rationale for choosing this region?

 I have been told in the past that the vast majority of training flights in the MOAs over the Olympic Peninsula should occur over 10,000 feet. What specific reasons require the Navy to conduct flights over within the MOAs under 10,000 feet above ground level?

 How do pilots know that they are flying within the boundaries of a Military Operational Area?

 Have the geographic boundaries of Military Operational Areas ever been modified? If so, what is the process to consider changes?

 We have heard that there may be a “Phase Three” Environmental Impact Statement regarding the Northwest Training and Testing Project. Is this true? If so, when would the public be notified?

 How has the Navy measured noise and its impact on natural resources and the communities within Washington’s Sixth Congressional District? To what extent do the Navy’s methods predict and or document expected impacts to specific communities and geographic regions?

”As a member of the House Appropriations Committee approaching the Fiscal Year 2018 budget cycle, it is important that I understand how the Navy is working with other federal agencies in my community,” Kilmer’s letter said.

Source: North Coast News