Navy Warfare Training on the Olympic Peninsula



Sierra Club's North Olympic Group believes these multiple Navy proposals — often delivered with little publicity or substantive public process, represent a piecemeal, fragmented approach that obscures the larger issues and impacts and, as a result, fails to adhere to NEPA's requirements for identifying and mitigating potential environmental impacts.


Navy Announcement (August 22, 2017)

The Department of the Navy (Navy) announces its intent to prepare a supplement to the 2015 Northwest Training and Testing Final EIS/OEIS to assess the potential environmental effects associated with military readiness activities, including training and research, development, testing, and evaluation (hereafter referred to as “training and testing”) activities conducted within the EIS/OEIS Study Area (hereafter referred to as the “Study Area”). As part of this process, the Navy will seek the issuance of federal regulatory permits and authorizations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act to support future military readiness activities within the Study Area beyond 2020. Read more.

Scoping comments accepted August 22, 2017 - September 21, 2017. 

Please fill out the online comment form or mail your substantive comments to the address below.

Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest
Attention: NWTT Supplemental EIS/OEIS Project Manager
3730 North Charles Porter Ave., Building 385
Oak Harbor, WA 98278-3500


Forest Service Green Lights ‘Growler’ Jet Flights Over Olympic National Park - by National Parks Conservation Association (August 1, 2017)

In a move that endangers natural quiet in Olympic National Park, the U.S. Forest Service approved a permit for the U.S. Navy to use roads just outside the park in support of electronic warfare training for “Growler” fighter jets.

In releasing its decision notice, the Forest Service found that installing mobile signal transmitter trucks in Olympic National Forest to aid U.S. Navy fighter jet training missions would pose no significant environmental impacts. The Navy proposal calls for increased jet training flights over portions of Olympic National Park, including the popular Hoh Rain Forest and wilderness beaches.

Below is a statement by Rob Smith, Northwest Regional Director for National Parks Conservation Association

“National Parks Conservation Association is disappointed that the Forest Service has chosen to listen to Navy jets rather than the public, and is subjecting Olympic National Park visitors and wildlife to increased overhead aircraft noise. Noisy fighter jets, aptly known as ‘Growlers’, flying over Olympic National Park will degrade one of our countries quietest places – Olympic National Park – as well as surrounding communities and public lands.

“The Navy has alternative locations for these training missions which do not involve flying over Olympic National Park. While the Navy has other options, there is only one Olympic National Park, one of the most natural sounding places left in the contiguous United States, and the most visited national park in the Northwest. The Olympics should sound like a national park, not a Navy airbase.

“We will carefully review the Forest Service decision and continues to urge the Navy to use other locations to meet its training needs.”


U.S. Forest Service Approves a Special Use Permit for the U.S. Navy in Support of Electronic Warfare Training on Olympic National Forest Roads (July 31, 2017)

Official U.S. Forest Service Announcement: "We want to let you know that a decision was made to authorize issuance of a Special Use Permit that would allow the U.S. Navy to conduct ground-to-air training using mobile electronic transmitters from eleven designated roadside locations on the Pacific Ranger District of the Olympic National Forest for a period of up to five years.

The decision adopts the Navy's 2014 Pacific Northwest Electronic Warfare Range Environmental Assessment in accordance with the Council on Environmental Quality regulations at 40 CFR 1506.3, to eliminate duplication by federal agencies. The decision is to select Alternative 1 as described in the 2014 Pacific Northwest Electronic Warfare Range Environmental Assessment with modifications. The decision also incorporates by reference analysis associated with the Navy's 2015 Northwest Training and Testing Final EIS/OEIS and its 2016 Record of Decision as well as other materials. The decision is documented in the 2017 Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact for the Pacific Northwest Electronic Warfare Range, which can be found Additional project materials may also be found at this location.

In making the decision, we considered public comments received during the designated scoping, comment, and objection periods, as well as input received outside of these designated periods. The main concerns profiled were potential impacts to public health and wildlife. Additional to standard permit Terms and Conditions, the decision includes Forest Service Project Design Features and Navy Standard Operating Procedures to address public health/safety and resource concerns. Compliance with the decision will be ensured through the Special Use Permit administration process."

Click here to read the U.S. Forest Service Final Decision Notice


Representative Derek Kilmer's Meeting with Concerned Environmental Groups on April 21, 2017

Representatives of the concerned groups that were signatories to the March 7, 2017 collaborative letter plus some other concerned groups, met with Rep. Kilmer and his key environmental policy staff on April 21, 2017 in Quilcene, WA. All of these groups filed formal objections to the USFS's draft notice of decision granting the US Navy the special use permits to operate an electronic warfare training range in our Olympic National Forest. In addition to discussing his letters to the US Navy and various federal agencies and their interactions with Rep. Kilmer and his staff, each organization was provided meeting time to present our concerns about the Navy's local projects and their NEPA evaluations. Sierra Club NOG read our prepared statement "Sierra Club's concerns with the Navy's Special Use Permits from the USFS" and provided hard copies of both our prepared statement and National Sierra Club's policy on The Military Use of Civilian Airspace and Public Lands to Rep. Kilmer and his staff.


Press Release: Kilmer Presses Navy for Answers on Impacts of Training Missions on Olympic Peninsula (March 28, 2017)

TACOMA, WA – Today, Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) pressed the Navy for answers on the impacts of training missions on the Olympic Peninsula. 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 Growler flights and electronic range testing. 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. Read the full text of the press release.


Kilmer Sends Letters to Several Agencies (March 27, 2017

Rep. Kilmer sent letters to Thomas L. Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service USFS), Jim Kurth, Acting Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Michael T. Reynolds, Acting Director for the National Park Service (NPS), and Benjamin Friedman, Administrator and Under Secretary of Commerece for Oceans and Atmosphere (NOAA). He asked several specific questions about the role of each agency regarding the efforts of the Navy in the Puget Sound region.

1. Read Rep. Kilmer's letter to the USFS.

2. Read Rep. Kilmer's letter to the USFWS.

3. Read Rep. Kilmer's letter to the EPA.

4. Read Rep. Kilmer's letter to the NPS.

5. Read Rep. Kilmer's letter to NOAA.


Kilmer Responds to Collaborative Letter (March 27, 2017)

Representative Derek Kilmer responded with his own letter to all the signatories of the collaborative letter and requested a face-to-face meeting with those same signatories representing the different environmental groups. Read Rep. Kilmer's letter to the environmental groups. The face-to-face meeting was scheduled for April 21, 2017 in Quilcene, WA.


Collaborative Letter to Representative Derek Kilmer about Naval Activities (March 7, 2017)

Several local environmental groups, including NOG, collaborated on and signed a letter addressed to Representative Derek Kilmer about the critical environmental and public health issues affecting communities, businesses, and Tribes concerning the rapid expansion of naval air, sea and land-based activities. Read the letter.


NOG Commented on the Navy’s Growler Draft EIS (February 18, 2017)

The Navy released its draft Environmental Impact Statement on the addition of 35 or 36 Growler jets to its fleet at Whidbey Island. Large increases in jet noise are to be expected. The comment period is now closed, but you can read NOG's February 18, 2017 comments here.


NOG's Objections to the U.S. Forest Service (January 11, 2017)

NOG provided objections to the pending decision by the U.S. Forest Service to grant a five-year special use permit to the U.S Navy to conduct electronic warfare training in the Olympic National Forest. Read our objection letter here.



Despite the Navy noting that the Olympic Peninsula is a non-essential area for meeting its training needs, the U.S. Forest Service recently released its draft decision to allow the Navy to use our roads and to conduct electronic warfare training operations within our Olympic National Forest. These training missions would fly over portions of Olympic National Park and designated wilderness areas such as the Hoh Rain Forest, one of the quietest places on the planet, as documented by Gordon Hempton's seminal work on the virtual impossibility of finding one square inch of the planet where only the sounds of nature prevail:

Sierra Club and others have argued that the Forest Service decision has to be viewed in conjunction with other Navy proposals, including increasing the number of Growler jet aircraft at Naval Air Station Whidbey and plans to expand warfare training exercises in Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean.  Failure to do so, we've pointed out, violates the intent of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as it allows the Navy to ignore the cumulative environmental impacts of its many activities.

 A case in point is the recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that would allow for a 47% increase in Growler operations.  This DEIS is deficient in many respects, but most notable are: its use of outdated modeling for assessing Growler noise impacts; its failure to include all areas affected by these flights, including Olympic Peninsula wilderness; and its failure to consider a "no-action" alternative, as required under NEPA.


HEAR OUR OLYMPICS - by National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) October, 2016

Fighter jet noise over Olympic National Park is drowning out natural sounds.

What Nature Sounds Like - The wild Olympic Peninsula is like nowhere else. Its special qualities have been recognized as a national park, wilderness area, International Biosphere Reserve, and World Heritage Site. Twenty-four species of plants and animals are found only here. The peninsula is also “the most acoustically diverse” and “least noise polluted” place in the Lower 48 states, according to local resident and natural sound expert Gordon Hempton. With oceansurf, lush forests, high mountain meadows with whistling marmots, bugling Roosevelt elk, and flowing rivers it offers a widerange of experiences, habitats – and sounds. This place is the epitome of what the natural world sounds like. Read More.

Navy Growler JetAs remote as the Olympic Peninsula is, it is within minutes of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, which has served as a military airbase since World War II. More recently, NAS Whidbey Island has become home to squadrons of EA -18G “Growlers,” so-called because of the deep, cacophonous roar made by their powerful engines. In a 2009 report on Jet Engine Noise Reduction, the U.S. Naval Research Advisory Committee identified these Growlers as some of the loudest aircraft in the skies. Growlers and similar aircraft can create sounds so loud that they............Read More.



A November 13, 2015 article in the Peninsula Daily News indicated that NMFS approved and signed their ROD in November 2015. Currently, NOG sees no further engagement in the NW Training and Testing Range final EIS as it is a final document and NMFS has signed their Record Of Decision (ROD) approving the training and testing expansion along our Pacific coast.



The Navy is still planning the release of their Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on additional E18 Growlers stationed at Whidbey Island NAS. NOG will engage with the Navy upon release of the Draft EIS expected in the Spring of 2016.



The Navy’s current training and testing activities along our Pacific coast are being conducted in compliance with previous environmental planning documentation, existing permits, and completed consultations that cover Navy activities in the Northwest. The NWTT Final EIS/OEIS covers future actions proposed to occur after the Navy decision-maker selects an alternative to implement and signs a Record Of Decision (ROD). The Navy has not yet signed a Record of Decision and has not begun conducting any new training and testing activities under the NWTT Final EIS/OEIS. 

The Navy worked with multiple federal and state agencies such as National Marine Fisheries Service, Washington Department of Ecology, and Washington State Historic Preservation Office to complete consultations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, and National Historic Preservation Act based on the findings presented in the Final EIS/OEIS. The Navy has been working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since January 2015 under the Endangered Species Act. 

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) signs its own ROD prior to issuing a Final Rule due to Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) requirements in coordination with the NEPA process. The MMPA Final Rule will be based upon the preferred alternative identified in the Final EIS/OEIS.



Sierra Club North Olympic Group, Olympic Forest Coalition, National Park Associates, and National Parks Conservation Association signed a comment letter to Eric Rickerson, Washington State Supervisor, USFWS, regarding the Navy's Warfare Range on the Olympic Peninsula. You can read the comment letter here.

Although the formal comment period has closed we urge our members to write to our elected officials urging them to stop this misguided project. Your letters should be directed to:

Senator Patty Murray:

Senator Maria Cantwell:

Congressman Derek Kilmer:



This is a vast Pacific Northwest ocean-based plan that proposes a heavy use of sonar and explosives off our coast and in Puget Sound with no planned additional mitigation. The Supplement also fails to substantively address cumulative effects, climate change and very importantly lacks any increase in mitigation for sonar testing injuries and deaths of marine mammals, sea turtles, fish and birds.  You can read about the Supplement here  and then click here to read the North Olympic Group's comment Letter to the Navy concerning the NWTT DEIS.

North Olympic Group joins Earthjustice and nearly two dozen other environmental organizations to protest the Navy's indiscriminate sonar and explosives testing in Puget Sound and the Pacific. By the Navy's own estimates these tests will result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries to marine mammals.  No areas, including the Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary, are off limits. Click here to read the comments signed by 23 environmental organizations and then click here to read comments from Robin W. Baird, Ph.D., biologist for the Cascadia Research Collective, about the vulnerability of marine mammals that are rarely exposed to MFA sonar.



The Navy is proposing to add 36 additional fighter aircraft, called Growlers, to the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station (NAS). These additional aircraft will be used both for dangerous touch and go training exercises at an antiquated landing strip in the middle of Coupeville and for electronic warfare training on the Olympic Peninsula. This proposal has the potential to significantly diminish the quality of wilderness and adversely affect our economy which is heavily dependent on tourism and outdoor recreation. The Navy’s proposal can be found here. The comment period closed January 9, 2015. Please read the North Olympic Group's scoping comments and the addendum  to those comments.



The Navy has proposed installing and operating communications equipment on an existing tower in the Olympic Military Operations Area at Octopus Mountain and operating a Mobile Electronic Warfare Training System on U.S. Forest Service and Department of Natural Resources lands on the Olympic Peninsula. This equipment will be used for training fighter jet pilots and it is expected to result in hundreds of annual overflights of Olympic Peninsula communities and wilderness areas, including Olympic National Park, a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site.

The Navy and Forest Service initially provided no notice to the larger affected communities and, in response to public protests, has held additional public meetings and extended the comment period for the Special Use Permit that the Forest Service would need to issue for the Navy to proceed with its mobile electronic warfare training on public lands. The Forest Service comment period ended November 28th, 2014.

The North Olympic Group (NOG) of the Sierra Club has commented on the Navy’s EA, finding it deficient, and has called for a full Environmental Impact Statement. In addition, we raised concerns about the impact these overflights would have on the wilderness experience and the adverse consequences for tourism and the economic well-being of communities that depend on Park and wilderness visitors. You can find the final environmental assessment and other documents related to the proposal on the Olympic National Forest NEPA projects website or click here to read our comments. Click here to read our addendum to those comments.