Monthly Archives: July 2009

Time to review Navy’s NW neighborliness

NOAA recently released an incidental take authorization associated with the Navy’s proposed expansion of the Northwest Range Training Complex.  The authorization and associated Navy documents are Complex, indeed!  Unfortunately, NOAA has allocated too little time for public comment on the .

Below I’ve quoted an inspirational letter from Fred Felleman.  Please emulate him and join me this weekend in requesting more time to review and comment.  Also, here are links to a recent story and blog by Chris Dunagan about the situation which provide useful links and background information:

30 July 2009

By Electronic Mail

Michael Payne, Chief
Permits, Conservation and Education Division
Office of Protected Resources
National Marine Fisheries Service
1315 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3225

Re: Request for Extension of Comment Deadline for Navy Marine Mammal Take Permits

Taking and Importing Marine Mammals;

U.S. Navy’s Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Activities Within the Naval Sea Systems Command Naval Undersea Warfare Center NW Training Range;

RIN: #” ##0648-AX88# (74 Fed. Reg.) & Keyport Range Complex; RIN:0648-AX11 (74 Fed. Reg. 32264 (July 7, 2009))

Dear Mr. Payne:

On behalf of Friends of the Earth and numerous other organizations and individuals who are deeply concerned about recovery of the endangered population of Southern Resident Killer Whales and the marine environment that supports them, we urgently request that you extend the public comment period and hold public hearings to solicit comments on the two take permits referenced above you are proposing to grant the U.S. Navy in the Northwest.  Friends of the Earth requests a minimum 30-day extension of time for the comment deadline for both proposals.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) should be well aware of the fact that most North American marine mammal biologists are in the field at this time and that the general public is engaged in recreational activities that make commenting on these voluminous documents difficult at best.

Furthermore, unlike the public notices you sent out touting your proposed rules for regulating whale-watching activities this week for hearings that will not be held until the fall, nothing more than a Federal Register notice was made for these far more impactful activities.  In addition you have afforded only one month on which to comment and no public hearings.  The comment deadlines for these proposals are also overlapping (August 6th and August 12th) adding to the unreasonable public burden.

While we are encouraged that the Navy has committed to no longer using the inshore waters of Puget Sound for sonar training activities, as part of the expansion of the NW Training Range Complex (Kitsap Sun July 30, 2009), the Navy intends to expand their operations off the coast significantly (i.e. Antisubmarine warfare 10%, Gunnery Exercises 100%, Bombing Exercises 25%, and Sinking Exercises 100%; 74 Fed. Reg. 33829).  It is also hard to understand why NMFS would not require the Navy to have a take permit for explosive ordinance testing in the inshore region?

In addition, the takings associated with the proposed expansion of the Keyport Range (link, 74 Fed. Reg.), which actually includes three sites both inshore and offshore, need to be reviewed by NMFS in context to those being proposed for the expansion of the NW Training Range Complex ( as well as the various other Navy Environmental Impact Statement’s (EIS) that are likely to impact marine mammals and their prey.  Those EISs include: Swimmer Interdiction Security System EIS (, Kinetic Hydropower Systems Puget Sound Demonstration (, Gulf of Alaska Training Range Activities EIS (, Multi-mission Aircraft Deployment out of Whidbey NAS (, and the proposed construction and operation of a second Trident Support Facilities explosives handling wharf at Naval Base Kitsap on Hood Canal (74 Fed. Reg. 22900 (May 15, 2009)). Furthermore the Navy’s other activities that can include the use sonar need to be considered in any environmental analysis.

The existence of so many concurrent projects is not only burdensome to the public to review and comment on, but also highlights the need for the production of a Programmatic EIS covering all of these projects by Navy Region NW, and for NMFS to review the proposed take permits to address the cumulative effects of these interlinked efforts.

Friends of the Earth requests this extension of time for these two comment periods not only to afford us the ability to thoroughly review the materials but to also use the time to meet with the Navy for an exchange of information and ideas regarding the scope of the proposed projects and the adequacy of the proposed mitigation.  We hope to construct a clear and constructive path to follow allowing the Navy to maintain our nation’s military readiness while minimizing its impact to the marine environment as well as to make contributions that will further our understanding and ability to protect it.

Thank you for considering our request for a minimum 30-day extension of the comment periods for the take permits at issue.


Fred Felleman, NW Consultant
Friends of the Earth
3004 NW 93rd St.
Seattle, Washington 98117

cc: Vice Admiral Richard Hunt, Commander U.S. Navy 3rd Fleet, Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell, Congressman Norm Dicks, Congressman Jay Inslee

Proposed 200yd rule for orca watching boats

Received this from this morning.   Deadline for public comment is 5pm on Oct. 27, 2009.  It’s noteworthy that this announcement came the day after notice that Dawn Noren published a paper that suggests that most surface active behaviors occur when vessels are within ~150 meters.

As part of the recovery program for endangered Southern Resident killer whales, NOAA Fisheries Service is proposing new rules for vessel traffic aimed at further protecting the whales in navigable waters of Washington State. The proposed rules would prohibit vessels from approaching any killer whale closer than 200 yards and forbid vessels from intercepting or parking in the path of a whale. In addition, the proposed regulations would set up a half-mile-wide no-go zone along the west side of San Juan Island from May 1 through the end of September, where generally no vessels would be allowed.

There would be exemptions to the rules for some vessels, including those actively fishing commercially, cargo vessels traveling in established shipping lanes, and government and research vessels. The no-go zone would also have exemptions for treaty Indian fishing vessels, and limited exceptions for land owners accessing private property adjacent to it.

The news release, proposed rule, draft environmental assessment, and other supporting documents are available on our web site at, along with instructions for submitting comments. There is a 90 day public comment period and we will hold public hearings Sept. 30 in Seattle, and Oct. 5 in Friday Harbor to provide additional information on the proposed rule. Thank you for your interest.

Progress for Skagit salmon

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

July 10, 2009
Contact: Lora Leschner, (425) 775-1311 ext. 121

Portion of the Skagit Wildlife Area will close as work resumes on estuary restoration

OLYMPIA – Beginning July 15, the 175-acre Headquarters Unit of the Skagit Wildlife Area will be closed to public access as crews resume work on a major estuary-restoration project at the mouth of the Skagit River.

The closed area includes the public boat ramp and the dike-top trails along the Skagit River and Wiley Slough.

Crews will be removing approximately 6,500 feet of dikes and levees, allowing tides and the river to reclaim the area south of a newly constructed setback dike that was completed earlier this year. The restoration project began in 2008, when crews installed a new, larger tidegate farther upstream on Wiley Slough.

Lora Leschner, regional wildlife program manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), said the work is scheduled to be completed in early September, when the Headquarters Unit will re-open to the public.

“Once we remove the old dikes and levees, the major work on this restoration project will be completed,” Leschner said.

WDFW owns and manages the entire 16,708-acre Skagit Wildlife Area to preserve habitat for fish and wildlife, while also providing a site for outdoor recreation. Leschner suggests that boaters use the ramp in Conway off Fir Island Road as an alternative while work is under way on the restoration project.

First proposed in 2002 by the Skagit Watershed Council, the Wiley Slough project is designed to restore 160 acres of estuarine salmon habitat that was diked and drained to create farmland in 1962. The federal salmon recovery plan for Puget Sound identifies the project as an important step toward restoring chinook stocks in the Skagit River.

Partners in the project include WDFW, the Skagit River System Cooperative, Seattle City Light and the Skagit Watershed Council, with funding from the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

State and federal agencies are providing $3.8 million for the restoration work and Seattle City Light contributed another $150,000 to the project.

“After work is completed in September, the Headquarters Unit will no longer be suitable for pheasant releases,” said Leschner. “But we are looking at several alternative sites where we might be able to relocate our pheasant release operations.”

Leschner said potential pheasant release sites were discussed at a public meeting earlier this year and that the department plans to schedule another public meeting later this summer.

To address concerns about lands lost to hunting, WDFW is working with a coalition of hunters, recreationists, farmers and other landowners to secure hunter access to private lands in the area.

In addition, the department agreed to improve the boat launch, maintain the nearby “island segment” for hunting and improve hiking trails in the Headquarters Unit of the wildlife area. Riparian vegetation will be planted to replace songbird habitat.

WDFW has already purchased 250 acres near Bayview on Padilla Bay that will eventually provide additional wildlife habitat and wildlife-viewing opportunities.

For more information on the Wiley Slough restoration project, see WDFW’s report to the 2008 Legislature at . Questions can also be directed to the WDFW Region 4 Office at (425) 775-1311.

Information on the Skagit Wildlife Area is available on WDFW’s website at .

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