Updated recommendations by Parks staff, commission set stronger criteria for permit approval
OLYMPIA – Jan. 29, 2021 – The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission approved the U.S. Navy’s proposal to conduct special operations trainings at several western Washington state parks at its regular meeting on Jan. 28.
During the meeting, State Parks staff presented its recommendations along with the final Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance (MDNS) for the commission to consider in deciding the outcome of the Navy’s proposal. 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 prior to conducting training, the Navy must also notify State Park after operations and conduct a site review with staff and provide periodic reports to the commission.
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 to the commission a detailed report on permitted naval activity including any interactions and 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 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 finding 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.
- 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.
- Elected a new slate of officers for 2021:
- Chair – Mike Latimer
- Vice Chair – Mark O. Brown
- Secretary – Diana Perez
- Approved agency priorities for 2021.
- Heard updates on:
- The agency’s 2019-21 biennium revenues and spending.
- The 2021-23 budget.
- 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. The meeting was livestreamed on TVW and can be watched here.
News media contact:
Toni Droscher, Communications Office, (360) 902-8604
About Washington State Parks
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission manages more than 100 state parks and properties totaling approximately 120,000 acres. The Commission provides a variety of recreation opportunities for citizens and provides stewardship protection for a diverse array of natural, cultural and historic resources. State Parks’ statewide programs include long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation.
News release number: 21-005