What does it mean to live in a Navy War Training Zone? | Guest column

Submitted by Quiet Skies over San Juan County

We know that the Navy War Training Zone means huge, blasting, vibrating noise and we know about Coupeville’s wells poisoned by Navy flame retardant.

What we don’t hear is that throughout our region – extending from the ocean beaches to the North Cascades – and from San Juan County to South Puget Sound – the Navy is using live bullets, bombs, missiles, chaff, flares, drones, sonobuoys and expendable targets, many containing harmful chemicals such as ammonium perchlorate, picric acid, nitrobenzene, lithium from sonobuoy batteries, lead, manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, copper, nickel, tungsten, chromium, molybdenum, vanadium, trinitrotoluene (TNT), RDX [Royal Demolition eXplosive] and HMX [High Melting eXplosive], which are ending up in the Salish Sea and Puget Sound.

Navy training operations are dumping toxic materials in areas designated as Essential Fish Habitat, and explosive and sonar exercises are conducted during peak times when important fisheries and marine mammals are present including Orcas.

The Navy estimates hundreds of thousands of marine mammals will be killed or harmed. Millions more will be disturbed multiple times.

How did our region get targeted as a Navy War Training Zone? It’s proximity to Asia, open space on land and in the air, low population and the blessing of our legislators: Governor Inslee, Senators Murray and Cantwell and Representative Larsen.

Our legislator’s achievements on the Issue pages of their websites are impressive. Their good deeds include: regulatory caps on carbon emissions, improving air quality, expanding outdoor recreation, reauthorizing Land and Water Conservation Funds, designating our SJ Islands National Monument, Creating the Wild Sky Wilderness Area, procuring $451 Million for Puget Sound protection and restoration, fighting to preserve Washington’s pristine waters and abundant fisheries, working to reverse ocean acidification, and recognizing that the preservation of wildlife and the lands and waters that make the Pacific Northwest unique, lead to a healthy economy and a high quality of life for present and future generations.

Good ideas! But what about the issues they are ignoring or quietly encouraging:

1. How do the 400,000 metric tons of CO2/ year emitted by Growlers affect our carbon emissions and air quality?

2. Creation of the Wild Sky Wilderness Area? What about the Growlers that scream through the North Cascades, across the Olympic Peninsula and the Wild Life Refuges on the Washington Coast? Is this a good fit with recreation, wilderness and wildlife habitat?

3. San Juan Islands National Monument is now blanketed with Growler noise which is about to increase by 47 percent. How does this help the environment, and the tourist economy?

4. $451 million Federal dollars are being spent to clean up the Salish Sea and Puget Sound. At the same time, Navy training will dump toxic compounds into the waters – which they will not clean up.

5. What is good about killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of marine mammals?

6. Outdoor recreation in Washington generates $21.6 billion in the annual economic activity directly supporting 199,000 jobs. How does placing a War Training Zone over pristine recreation areas help our economy?

7. And then there’s “quality of life”. Those of us who have chosen to live in the more remote areas of Washington State are under assault. The Navy is degrading the values we treasure – clean water and air, peace and quiet.

Let’s praise our legislators for their good ideas but also hold them accountable for the decisions they are quietly making with the Navy which do not lead to a healthy economy and a high quality of life for present and future generations.

Let’s call them on the contradictory positions they are holding. Contact information for legislators and reference materials are available at www.quietskies.info. And, there are still five days to send comments is the Draft EIS.