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Potential For Navy War Games Alarms Peninsula Residents

Lt. Roy Walker, from the Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.
Flickr Photo/U.S. Pacific Fleet (CC-BY-NC-ND)
Lt. Roy Walker, from the Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

The U.S. Forest Service and the Navy are addressing public concerns about a controversial training exercise.

The Navy wants to place electromagnetic radiation emitters at more than a dozen sites on federal and state land in Washington. The real time training would allow pilots to practice finding those signals.

The exercises are designed to mimic an anti-aircraft missile attack. The Navy’s John Mosher said in places like Iraq and Syria enemy forces use electromagnetic signals to locate their target in the air.

If permitted by the Forest Service and Department of Natural Resources, the trainings would take place next fall at sights on the Peninsula and in North Central Washington (see maps in the above slideshow).

“To actually be exposed to electronic emissions that are above permissible safety levels, a person would have to be in very close proximity to the antenna,” Mosher said.

As a precaution, Mosher said there will be warning signage. He added that emitters will be shut down if people or animals come within 100 feet of the antenna.

Still people are concerned. The Forest Service’s Greg Wahl said they’ve received more than 200 public comments.

“In general we’re hearing a lot of concerns about electromagnetic waves, electromagnetic radiation. A lot of concerns about human and wildlife health and safety issues,” Wahl said.

There’s also an online petition circulating. To accommodate the public’s concerns the comment period has been extended to the end of the month.

The Pacific Northwest Electronic Warfare Range project would be the first of its kind for Washington, though the Navy has already conducted the same training exercises at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.

This was first reported for KUOW.

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Patricia Murphy