Demonstrators turn out to oppose proposed Navy 'war games'

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Demonstrators converged on the Olympic National Forest headquarters Friday because they're worried about the Navy's proposed warfare training range.

They're fearful of mobile electronic transmitters the Navy wants to place inside the forest land.

A small but active group of demonstrators gathered to urge the US Forest Service to deny the Navy's request for a permit to step up their electronic war games using national forest land.

At issue is the training of the naval aviators aboard the EA-18G Growlers out of the Whidbey Island Naval Air station. They identify enemy radar sites and jam them so other aircraft can move in without being detected.

The Navy wants to use mobile electro-magnetic transmitting trucks to give the air crews training in detecting them as they fly off the coast. There are 16 different locations on the Olympic peninsula that the Navy wants to place these trucks.

But the demonstrators say they're all inside the Olympic National Forest which they don't believe is safe and don't believe fits with the intent of this natural setting.

"They don't have the scientific data to prove that this is not going to affect the environment," said Theresa Jump of Save Olympic Peninsula. "I'm a hiker and I get out there and I'm concerned."

But the Navy says the jets already train in this area and these trucks are no different than TV news trucks and radar that you have onboard commercial fishing boats.

"No, to be very clear there is absolutely no threat to the public or to wildlife in what we've proposed with these activities," said John Mosher of the US Navy.

The Navy needs a permit from the Olympic National Forest, which extended the comment period three weeks. It ends next Friday.

"And we thought it would be better to extend that so we could gain as many comments as possible," said Donna Nemeth of the Olympic National Forest.

It's not known when a decision on the permit would be made. The Navy doesn't plan on starting the electronic war games until a year from now.