The Times 

WA State Parks Commission approves Navy Proposal

 

February 4, 2021



Commission sets stronger criteria for permit approval

WASHINGTON—The Washington State Parks Commission met virtually on January 28 for their regular bi-monthly meeting. In attendance were Steve Milner from Chelan, Mike Latimer from Yakima, Mark Brown from Lacey, Sophia Danenberg from Seattle, Ken Bounds from Seattle, Diana Perez from Vancouver, Cindy Whaley from Spokane, and Director Don Hock.

The commission moved to approve the U.S. Navy’s proposal to conduct special operations training events at several western Washington state parks.

During the meeting, the State Parks staff presented its recommendations and the final Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance (MDNS) for the commission to consider in deciding the Navy’s proposal’s outcome. 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 before conducting training, the Navy must also notify State Park after operations have taken place to conduct site reviews with staff and provide periodic reports.

The Commission 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 a detailed report on permitted naval activity to the Commission. The information will include any 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 an 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 findings 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. The public comment was predominantly against the use of their state parks as military training grounds.

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.

In other business, the Commission recognized the outstanding job Director Don Hoch did this past year and how well he handled all the challenges, especially the pandemic, the agency faced throughout the year. Commissioners also wished him a happy retirement. Director Hoch retires this March.

The Washington State Parks Commission elected a new slate of officers for 2021:

Chair – Mike Latimer

Vice-Chair – Mark O. Brown

Secretary – Diana Perez

And lastly, the Commission approved agency priorities for 2021, which will be the agency’s 2019-21 biennium revenues and spending reports, the 2021-23 budget, and the status of the remote 2021 legislative session.

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.

 

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