A Make or Break Moment to Save the Olympic Peninsula
Washington State’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson initiated a lawsuit against the Navy in July for failing to adequately consider the effects that additional Growler jet flights would have on the people or wildlife on Whidbey Island. Now the Navy wants to negotiate a settlement of that lawsuit.
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer is attempting to arrange a deal involving a payout of millions of dollars to Whidbey Island residents, without addressing the concerns we have for the environmental and economic impacts to the Olympic National Park and the Olympic Peninsula. You can view a report on this matter that was aired on KING 5 News here:
This is a critical moment in protecting the future environmental integrity of the Olympic Peninsula. Just as the Navy has violated the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act in relation to its activities over and around Whidbey Island, the Navy has violated those laws in relation to its activities over and around Olympic National Park and the Olympic Peninsula.
Throughout the required NEPA and ESA mandated studies the Navy has understated the noise that its Growler EA-18G jets produce, it has used flight patterns and flight altitudes designed to artificially reduce the actual impacts of its flights, it has assumed fewer numbers of flights than are occurring, and it has ignored the impacts of its jets on transit routes between Whidbey Island and across the Olympic Peninsula.
The impacts of the Navy’s jets on the transit routes are enormous. They overlie large areas of high altitude, critical habitat for the spotted owl and the marbled murrelet, and large areas of the most pristine and attractive areas of Olympic National Park.
The Navy has never addressed the Olympic Peninsula’s economic vulnerability from any angle. Our economy relies heavily on tourism associated with Olympic National Park, the World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, and the Olympic National Forest.
PLEASE WRITE ATTORNEY GENERAL FERGUSON AND GOVERNOR INSLEE and urge them to not settle with the Navy until Olympic National Park and the Olympic Peninsula are protected from the Navy’s activities, ask them to include us in any discussions with the Navy, and tell them that a financial settlement is not an acceptable solution for the Olympic Peninsula.
Please tell them the Navy should cease impacting the Olympic National Park (an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site), the Olympic National Forest, and the remainder of the Olympic Peninsula. This area should not be a training ground for military operations, especially when other and better training areas exist.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson
Office of the Attorney General
1125 Washington St SE
PO Box 40100
Olympia, WA 98504-0100
Assistant Attorney General Bill Sherman
Attorney General's Office
800 5th Ave Ste 2000
Seattle, WA 98104-3188
Governor Jay Inslee
Office of the Governor
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002
Growler Graffiti over Kalaloch Beach, Olympic National Park, August 20, 2019
PHOTO BY SKI
Washington's Attorney General Sues The Navy
Taking an extremely politically courageous action, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is suing the United States Navy for conducting its Whidbey Island EA-18G Growler operations in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. Ferguson also will soon to be filing a lawsuit alleging that the Navy's activities violate the Endangered Species Act. This is precisely the type of legal action that Save the Olympic Peninsula (STOP) has hoped for in the course of its many efforts to obtain relief from the Navy's Growler operations over the Olympic Peninsula.
STOP greatly appreciates these actions of Attorney General Ferguson. STOP is likewise appreciative of Washington State Governor Jay Inslee in wholeheartedly supporting the Attorney General's lawsuit.
We encourage you to write the Attorney General and the Governor to express your gratitude for their actions. It is not easy for elected officials to challenge the United States Government, especially when it involves the United State Military. Please also let our other local, state and federal elected officials know that they should follow Attorney General Ferguson's and Governor Inslee's examples.
We especially encourage you to ask Congressman Derek Kilmer to begin challenging the Navy's activities. He has generally maintained that the Navy is a "good neighbor" and has assumed the Navy was complying with the environmental laws despite thousands of his constituents submitting comments maintaining otherwise. This lawsuit should make Kilmer reconsider his position.
Congressman Kilmer has recently proposed legislation requiring the Navy to install and operate sound monitoring stations to determine whether the sound data being used in the Navy's environmental studies is accurate. Senators Murray and Cantwell have proposed legislation requiring an independent third party to install and operate such monitoring stations. The Senators' approach is certainly preferable, but much stronger action is needed. Although STOP finds these initiatives insufficient, we appreciate that they are at least a start.
We already know electronic warfare training, and the sound levels created by the Navy's jets, are not appropriate for Olympic National Park, a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve. The real solution is to move the training elsewhere. We urge our Congressional delegation to develop the type of courage that our Attorney General and Governor have displayed and demand that the training be moved elsewhere.
The actions of the Attorney General in filing the lawsuit came one year after representatives of Save the Olympic Peninsula and a number of other organizations opposing the Navy's Whidbey Island EA-18G Growler operations met with Bill Sherman, the Counsel for the Environment for Attorney General Bob Ferguson, to ask his help in preventing the Navy from continuing to conduct its activities in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Sherman promised his office would consider our input and consider bringing legal action against the Navy if he agreed with our assessment of the situation.
Various members of the Sound Defense Alliance, especially Citizens of Ebey's Reserve, and STOP continued to provide information regarding the Navy's non-compliance with the environmental laws to the Attorney General's office since that time. The actions of the Attorney General, the Counsel for the Environment, and the Governor in considering that information and acting upon it stand as excellent examples of good government and how citizen involvement can yield good results.
Watch Attorney General Ferguson's press conference below. Go to the lawsuit document here.
Save the Olympic Peninsula has submitted comments on the latest draft environmental impact statement related to the Navy's training and testing activities over the Olympic Peninsula.
STOP's comments mostly address the noise impacts of Growler EA-18G jets flying over the Olympic Peninsula. STOP has found, using the Navy's own information, that the Navy's previous noise analysis was, and its new noise analysis is, based on significantly understated numbers of jet flights. This, of course, significantly understates the noise impacts of the Navy's activities.
Furthermore, the Navy continues to ignore the noise impacts of its aircraft on large portions of the area between Whidbey Island and the Pacific Ocean, including Olympic National Park, Dungeness Wildlife Refuge, Protection Island, the City of Port Townsend and large portions of the San Juan Islands and the Salish Sea.
STOP encourages all of you to address your concerns regarding this situation to your local, state and federal elected officials. Those officials must be educated on the need for them to help save the Olympic Peninsula from the damage the Navy continues to do.
Go to STOP's letter to the Navy here.
“The logic is simple; if a loud noise, such as the passing of an aircraft, can impact many square miles, then a natural place, if maintained in a 100 percent noise-free condition, will also impact many square miles around it.”