PORT TOWNSEND — Navy officials are in the process of reading comments from the public on its proposed special operations training in the Puget Sound area.
Navy officials are reading the comments before drafting an environmental assessment, according to Sheila Murray, deputy public affairs officer for the Navy Region Northwest.
“We’re in the analysis stage,” Murray said.
Murray said the Navy plans to have a draft of the environmental assessment published in late fall or early winter this year.
The Navy held open houses in communities including Port Townsend in May to educate the community on its plans to use shorelines around the Puget Sound for special operations training.
The proposed training area on the North Olympic Peninsula presented at the Port Townsend open house included the shoreline from Port Townsend to the end of the Toandos Peninsula.
That included county parks such as North Beach and state parks such as Fort Worden, Fort Flagler and Fort Townsend.
Shoreline along the east side of Hood Canal, the east side of the Kitsap Peninsula, the north end of Bainbridge Island and along the Pacific Coast from Westhaven to Cape Disappointment were also included in the proposed training area.
The Navy has received more than 100 emails and letters and community members submitted dozens of written concerns since the open houses.
The public will have another opportunity to comment once the draft is released.
According to Murray, “the Navy kind of went above and beyond by holding public meetings and asking for recommendations.
“For an environmental assessment it’s not required, but we knew the public would have questions about it.”
Murray said once the draft is released, the Navy plans to hold more open houses and will continue to collect comments by mail and email.
Murray said the Navy is currently considering comments on where they should or shouldn’t hold the training.
Some private land owners have volunteered their property for the Navy to use as a training area, though many community members have raised concerns over the Navy training at state and county parks.
Anna Whalen, an environmental planner and project manager for the Navy, was one of the Navy representatives at the open house in May and said the training ground that is actually utilized will be a fraction of what is proposed.
The Navy decided to cast a wide net because it will have to get permission from land owners to use their property for the special operation training.
During the proposed training, trainees are meant to be learning how to avoid detection so the training itself will have a minimal impact on the environment, according to Murray.
This is why the Navy is conducting an environmental assessment rather than an environmental impact study.
“This type of training won’t have a major effect on the environment,” Murray said.
The Navy isn’t currently accepting more public comment on the matter.
For more information on the Navy proposal, see http://tinyurl.com/PDN-specialopstraining.
To reach project representatives, write [email protected].
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected]