Navy taking comment on draft plan for land, cold-water maritime training

PORT TOWNSEND — The U.S. Navy is hosting an open house in Port Townsend tonight to provide information on its proposed special operations training in Western Washington.

The Naval Special Warfare Command proposes to conduct small-unit land and cold-water maritime training activities for naval special operations personnel.

The training would happen on nearshore lands in the inland waters of the Puget Sound, including the Hood Canal as well as the southwestern Washington Coast.

The open house is set for 5 to 8 tonight at Blue Heron School Commons, 3939 San Juan Ave., Port Townsend. It is the only open house planned on the North Olympic Peninsula.

The Navy is accepting comments on the draft Environmental Assessment until Feb. 21.

All comments submitted during the 30-day comment period will be addressed in the final Environmental Assessment, the Navy said.

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.

“The intent of the proposed training is to build trainees’ skills, experience, and confidence by challenging them in a location with dynamic weather and land/cold-water conditions,” according to the 267-page draft Environmental Assessment published Jan. 18.

“As part of the rigorous training, the trainees learn skills needed to avoid detection along with the goal of leaving no trace of their presence during or after training activities.”

The proposed training area on the North Olympic Peninsula includes the shoreline from Port Townsend to the end of the Toandos Peninsula. That includes county parks such as North Beach and state parks such as Fort Worden, Fort Flagler and Fort Townsend.

Training would include diving and swimming, inserting and extracting trainees and or equipment using watercraft, launching and recovering watercraft, using unmanned underwater vehicles, moving on foot over the beach, hiking to an observation point and using observation techniques, simulated building clearance training, high-angle climbing and using small unmanned aircraft systems, according to the draft Environmental Assessment.

The Navy says the proposal would “support intermediate and advanced small-unit naval special operations training in increasingly complex, cold-water maritime, and land environments.”

The training would involve training activities designed to further develop and sustain proficiency in the cold-water maritime and land aspects of naval special operations.

The intent of the proposed training is to build trainees’ skills, experience, and confidence by challenging them in a location with dynamic weather and land/cold-water conditions.

Trainees would learn skills needed to avoid detection along with the goal of leaving no trace of their presence during or after training activities, the Navy says.

Alternatives

The Navy is considering three alternatives and a “no action alternative.”

Each of the alternatives vary in the number of training blocks each year per region, with the Navy’s preferred alternative including the most training blocks.

• The first alternative calls for four training blocks annually in Region One, which includes areas in the Puget Sound south of Admiralty Inlet and Whidbey Island.

A training block is a two-to-eight week period of time in which up to 84 naval special operations trainees and support personnel arrive in western Washington to participate in land and cold-water maritime training.

• The second alternative calls for four training blocks per year in Region One, and a training block every other year in Region Three on the southwest coast of Washington and a training block every other year in Region Two in the northern part of Puget Sound.

• The third alternative, the Navy’s preferred alternative, calls for six training blocks in Region One each year, one training block every other year in Region Two and one training block every other year in Region 3.

The Navy says not every site would be used every year.

The Navy considered conducting the training at Coast Guard Base Kodiak Island, Alaska, but the lack of a recompression chamber and the minimal emergency medical facilities across the island were among reasons cited against it.

The Navy also considered training in the San Francisco Bay Area and near Newport Rhode Island.

For more information, visit https://navfac.navy.mil/NSOEA.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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