Navy to be allowed to train in State Parks

The U.S. Navy has been granted permission to conduct special operations training at some Washington state parks with mitigation requirements specific to each park. 

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission approved the U.S. Navy’s proposal at its regular meeting on Jan. 28.

During the meeting, State Parks staff presented its recommendations along with the final Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance (MDNS) for the commission to consider in deciding the outcome of the Navy’s proposal. 

The modifications included in the final MDNS and modified permit criteria reflect information staff learned from public comments solicited in the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) environmental review and testimony heard during a virtual public meeting on Jan. 26.

Highlights include:

  • More robust protection measures for plant species and marine and terrestrial animals.
  • Limiting training to nighttime hours only when parks are closed to day-use visitors.
  • Further direction on avoiding Tribal cultural resources and not interfering with Tribal fishing or shellfish harvesting activities.
  • Monitoring — In addition to notifying State Parks prior to conducting training, the Navy must also notify State Park after operations and conduct a site review with staff and provide periodic reports to the commission.

The commission reportedly added the nighttime hour restriction as an amendment to the staff recommendation.

The amendment also provides that nine months after the first permit is issued, the State Parks director will present to the commission a detailed report on permitted naval activity including any interactions and issues that may have occurred involving park visitors and Navy personnel. The Commission approved this requested action by a 4-3 vote. 

The approved amended criteria will narrow down the number of state parks in which the Navy will be permitted to conduct training. State Parks staff will begin to issue permits in the next few weeks on a park-by-park basis, after the applying the mitigating conditions and site criteria. The mitigated conditions and criteria will ultimately determine which specific parks are permitted.  

Timeline of Navy proposal/Commission action:

  • February 2020 — U.S. Navy submits 29 permit applications to conduct special training operations in 28 state parks in western Washington. 
  • February 2020 January 2021 — State Parks staff conducts environmental review of the proposal under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).
  • Dec. 22, 2020 — Staff release a Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance (MDNS) finding. The MDNS finding placed conditions on the Navy to ensure that no impacts to the environment would occur. The public was invited to comment on these findings.  
  • Jan. 26, 2021 — The commission conducts a special virtual meeting to hear public comments about the proposal.
  • Jan. 28, 2021 — Final MDNS issued and commission decision.

For more details about the Navy proposal and staff recommendations, contact Steve Brand, Partnerships and Planning, (360) 902-8651 (office), or Jessica Logan, Environmental Program manager, (360) 902-8679.

Draft minutes from the Jan. 28 commission meeting are available online. These minutes will be reviewed and approved by the commission at its next regular meeting on April 15.

The meeting was livestreamed on TVW and can be watched here.