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Navy proposes special operations training in WA State Parks

Deception Pass State Park (Tobias Haase/WikiCommons)

State Parks is reviewing a proposal from the Navy to expand its use of parks in Western Washington for special operations training from five locations to 29.

Public comments are being accepted and a public meeting will be held May 6 in Port Townsend. Staff will provide a report to the State Parks Commission on March 12 during a meeting in Chelan, which will be streamed online.

The Navy has its sights set on parks in seven counties, including Skagit.

Here, the Navy has proposed conducting training at Deception Pass State Park and Skagit Island Marine State Park near the Kukutali Preserve. The Navy also proposes using six parks in Island County, from retired military forts on Whidbey Island to beaches on Camano Island.

According to an environmental assessment the Navy published in October, special operations personnel have been using the Pacific Northwest for training for decades. Western Washington is considered important because conditions in the region’s marine water environment are challenging.

The Navy currently has authorization to conduct in-water and nearshore training at five state parks in Jefferson and Kitsap counties.

According to the environmental assessment and the permit application submitted Feb. 12 to State Parks, adding more parks — and therefore more kinds of landscapes — is needed in order to offer a greater variety of training opportunities.

“The breadth of training sites … ensures that new locations and the varied amount of training locations … would prevent familiarity with a common training environment and continually challenge the naval special operations units,” the application states.

Special operations training may include swimming, diving, operating and engaging with watercraft, using underwater vehicles, moving on foot over the beach, hiking to observation points or using unmanned aircraft. At Deception Pass State Park, high-angle climbing is also proposed as a training activity using the park’s coastal rock cliffs.

According to the permit application, training would be conducted in two- to eight-week periods in which up to 84 Navy personnel would participate. Training could last from two to 72 hours at a time, and may be done during the day or night.

At Deception Pass and Skagit Island state parks, training would occur between three and 36 times per year, according to the permit application.

The Navy is seeking five-year permits.

Comments can be submitted online or by mail to Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, c/o Becki Ellison, P.O. Box 4265, Olympia, 98504-2650.


© 2020 the Skagit Valley Herald