Navy to take feedback on special operations training plans through March 23

PORT TOWNSEND — The Navy has extended the public comment period on a draft environmental assessment for special operations training in Jefferson County to March 23.

The comment period was set to expire Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Jefferson County commissioners had agreed to send a letter requesting the comment period extension.

“We encourage all concerned citizens to send their feedback and concerns,” said Sheila Murray, deputy of public affairs for the Navy Northwest Region, on Wednesday.

“They will be read.”

The Navy has proposed use of shoreline around Port Townsend and on the Toandos Peninsula, as well as on state and local parks, for training.

County Commissioner Kate Dean said Tuesday that U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer — who represents the 6th Congressional District, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula — had asked for an extension for comments.

“When county parks are included, we need to weigh in,” Dean said.

The Navy unveiled its draft environmental assessment on its proposed special operations training Jan. 18. The document can be seen at https://navfac.navy.mil/NSOEA.

Comments can be emailed to [email protected], or sent by mail to Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest, Attention: Project Manager, EV21.AW, 1101 Tautog Circle, Suite 203, Silverdale, WA 98315-1101.

Commissioners on Tuesday also decided unanimously to express environmental concerns regarding naval training plans.

Dean said that some training is necessary but how it impacts a community also is important. She said the use of community parks causes environmental concerns, as with shoreline and critical areas and habitat.

“I took a closer look at the impact of the Navy’s proposal and was surprised I missed the impacts,” Dean said.

“I did not see how much local shoreline was included.”

Marty Gilmore of Cape George expressed concerns Tuesday about the west facing bluffs at Discovery Bay and Fort Worden possibly suffering environmental damage if they are used for training.

“The county has a stake in the Navy exercises that are proposed,” Forest Shulmer of Port Townsend said. “We have 107 miles of shoreline in Jefferson County. All of our county parks including Oak Bay Park, Marrowstone and Port Townsend boat launch areas. We can’t fish and recreate in those areas that will be under Navy control.”

Commissioner business

In other Jefferson County business, nine sealed bids for Salmon Creek Bridge on West Uncas Road were opened Monday. They ranged from $849,000 to $1,293,000. No action was taken.

Also at the meeting the commissioners agreed to send a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke opposing the new Five-Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, and requesting that Washington state be exempt.

The letter details the projected economic impact of an oil spill and the environmental damage that would affect the shoreline ecosystem, tribal lands and marine sanctuaries.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].

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