Greg Wahl, Project Lead, USDA-Forest Service Olympic National Forest 1835 Black Lake Blvd SW Olympia, WA 98512 Susan North Conservation Manager Seattle Audubon Society 8050 35th Ave. NE Seattle, WA 98115 Comments Submitted To: [email protected] RE: Pacific Northwest Electronic Warfare Range Special-Use Permit Application Dear Mr. Wahl, In response to the scoping notice released by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Pacific Ranger District on September 26, 2014, the Seattle Audubon Society provides the following comments on the U.S. Navy’s (Navy) application for a special-use permit to conduct the Pacific Northwest Electronic Warfare Range project on National Forest lands. According to the Pacific Northwest Electronic Warfare Range Environmental Assessment (hereafter EA), the Navy concludes that exposing the federally threatened Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina) and the federally threatened Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) to electromagnetic radiation “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” either species. The Navy also concludes that there will be “no effect” on the federally threatened Western Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus nivosus). We concur with the Navy that Western Snowy Plover will not be affected by this action. However, we disagree with the Navy that the action “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” the Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet. The Navy has drawn this conclusion without proper analysis of the effects of the action on each species. The Seattle Audubon Society believes that the Navy has been remiss in drawing a “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” conclusion without sufficient justification, and we request the development of a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze these effects thoroughly. Furthermore, any “may affect” determination for federally listed species requires concurrence from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) (50 C.F.R. 402.14(a)). The Seattle Audubon Society has been unable to confirm such concurrence to date. We request public dissemination of documentation demonstrating that the Navy has consulted with USFWS on the proposed action, and that USFWS has concurred with the conclusions reached in the EA. If such a consultation has yet to occur, we urge the development of a formal Biological Opinion by USFWS. Summary of Action Mobile Electronic Warfare Training System (MEWTS) Mobile Emitters The Navy requests permission from USFS to deploy three Mobile Electronic Warfare Training System (MEWTS) vehicle-mounted electromagnetic emitters along national forest roads leading to 15 sites on Olympic National Forest and Washington Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) lands (12 and 3 sites respectively), during 260 days each year. These emitters will transmit electromagnetic radiation to naval aircraft to mimic conditions pilots might face in combat. According to the EA, two types of emitters will be included on each mobile unit: (1) Travelling Wave Tube Amplifiers, which emit electromagnetic radiation at 4–8 gigahertz (GHz); and, (2) Magnetron Mobile Emitters, which emit electromagnetic radiation at 6.7–7.4 GHz (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 3.1-2). Each mobile emitter antennae will be mounted 4.2 meters (m) (14 feet (ft)) above the ground (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 3.1-5). The action level environment (defined as public areas where individuals have no knowledge or control of their exposure) of the Traveling Wave Tube Amplifiers is approximately 30.8 m (101.1 ft), while the action level environment of the Magnetron Mobile Emitters is 8.9 m (29.3 ft) (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 3.1-4). A “fixed beam” will be utilized. The dimensions of the beam were not described; therefore, we were unable to calculate the area to be affected. The EA states the mobile emitters will be located on existing cleared open area on ridges and cliffs, with the direction of emissions pointed in a west/northwest direction (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 2-4). In sum, the range of radiation emitted is 4–8 GHz, which is within the microwave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum (300 megahertz (MHz)–300 GHz) (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 3.1-2). The action level environment affected by each mobile unit is within 30.8 m (101.1 ft) of each mobile emitter (area unknown), beginning at a height 4.2 m (14 ft) from the ground. The three mobile units are to be deployed to three of fifteen available sites during 260 days each year for 8–16 hours per day, with nine hours of actual operating time per vehicle per day (27 total hours per day across the three sites). The three mobile units will rotate daily among the 15 available sites. Thus, 1/5 of sites will be in use each day, meaning every fifth day, the same site will again be in use. According to the EA, mobile emitters will transmit electromagnetic radiation for a total of 2,340 hours per site per year, and 7,020 hours across three sites each year (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 2-6). This provides a total electromagnetic radiation exposure of 35,100 hours across all 15 sites each year (2,340 hrs/site/yr x 15 sites), which is never explicitly stated in the EA. In sum, an undefined area 30.8 m (101.1) ft west of each mobile unit site will be exposed to 4–8 GHz of electromagnetic radiation for 2,340 hours/year, with 9 hours of exposure occurring every fifth day. Mobile Remote Emitter Simulator (MRES) Magnetron The Navy also plans to install and operate one fixed (Mobile Remote Emitter Simulator) MRES emitter at Naval Station Everett Annex Pacific Beach. This fixed emitter will be (20 m) 66 ft in height, and can transmit 64 simultaneous pulses at 2–18 GHz (pulsed or in waves) (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 3.1-2). The action-level environment, also undefined in area, will be exposed 217.5 m (713.7 ft) west of the fixed emitter (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 3.1-4). The fixed emitter beam will be pointed in a westerly direction, into the air (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 3.1-15). The Navy failed to clearly identify the hours of operating time expected for the fixed emitter per day and per year, although repeatedly refers to Table 2.1-1 in the EA, which describes hours of operation of mobile emitters (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 3.2-23, 25). We assume this is an error, though we will accept the estimate of 9 hours of operating time per day to determine an annual estimate of 2,340 hours per year (9 hours x 260 operating days) at the fixed emitter site. We encourage the Navy to more clearly identify the hours of operation expected for the fixed emitter. In sum, an undefined area 217.5 m (713.7 ft) west of the fixed MRES emitter will be exposed to 2–18 GHz of electromagnetic radiation for 2,340 hours per year. We are unable to determine the significance of “64 simultaneous pulses” though if this suggests a magnification of emissions by 64 times one pulse, then it would appear that an undefined area 217.5 m (713.7 ft) west of the fixed MRES emitter will be exposed to 2–18 GHz of electromagnetic radiation for an equivalent of 149,760 hours pulsed per year (2,340 hours /year/pulse x 64 simultaneous pulses). Occupancy of Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet According to a map (Figure 3.2-5) provided in the EA, 7 of the 15 mobile unit sites are within federally designated critical habitat for Northern Spotted Owl (sites 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 13, and 15) (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 3.2-16). The EA states that a large and virtually isolated Northern Spotted Owl population may be found throughout the Olympic Peninsula portion of the project area (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 3.2-16). Neither presence/absence surveys, nor an evaluation of Northern Spotted Owl nesting sites were provided in the EA. According to a map (Figure 3.2-6) provided in the EA, 11 of the 15 mobile unit sites are within federally designated critical habitat for Marbled Murrelet (sites 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 12, 13, 14, and 15) (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 3.2-19). This map also shows that 8 of the 15 mobile unit sites are in close proximity (unknown distance) to areas used by Marbled Murrelet, indicated by subcanopy behavior, above canopy behavior, and downy young or eggshell (sites 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 14, and 16) (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 3.2-19). The EA concludes that there are no known Marbled Murrelet nesting sites that will be affected by mobile emitters, citing a 2011 habitat suitability model (Raphael et al. 2011) (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 3.2-18). Presence/absence surveys were not conducted. Figure 3.2-6 also shows a cluster of Marbled Murrelet points indicating both subcanopy behavior and above canopy behavior near the fixed MRES fixed emitter site. Effects to Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet According to the EA, electromagnetic radiation can affect wildlife depending upon three factors: (1) the type of radiation; (2) the duration of exposure; and, (3) the species receiving the radiation. Our expectation is that the Navy would carefully review each of the three factors that it stated can cause electromagnetic radiation to affect wildlife, specifically addressing each factor as it relates to Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet. Instead, the Navy concludes that exposure of Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet to electromagnetic radiation “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” either species, presenting three arguments to support this conclusion (U.S. Navy 2014, p. 3.2-26). First, the Navy states that studies demonstrating a negative effect of electromagnetic radiation on birds were based upon “continual and long-duration” exposure to electromagnetic radiation, and that because units are mobile, exposure will be minimized. Second, the Navy states that both Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet will fly through the action area rapidly, minimizing any exposure to flight effects. Third, the Navy states that the directional beam pattern minimizes exposure to radiation. The Navy also states that one of two individuals in each vehicle will be tasked with observing the general training site from inside the vehicle for the presence of people or animals. Thus, if any people or animals are present in an area while training is occurring, the mobile emitter crews will cease operations, and if necessary, relocate. Each of these points attempts to address factor 2 above: duration of exposure. Duration of Exposure Unfortunately, the Navy has presented no argument to support its conclusions that the duration of exposure will not adversely affect each species. First, “continual and long-duration” exposure is never defined, and no comparison is made of the amount of exposure time that studies have suggested can cause adverse effects to birds with the expected exposure time of the mobile emitters. We question how the Navy was able to conclude that 9 hours of exposure to electromagnetic radiation (per site per day) does not qualify as continual and long-term. Furthermore, there is no analysis of the planned repeated exposure of 2,340 hours per site per year. As the Navy has not performed surveys to determine presence/absence, but is locating many mobile emitter sites within occupied and critical habitat, we would expect both Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet to occur nearby, at least for some portion of time for this action. With regards to the Navy’s second statement (both Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet will fly through the action area rapidly, minimizing any exposure to flight effects), the Navy has ignored each species biology and behavioral patterns as they relate to duration of exposure. Instead the Navy provides a very general assessment of non-soaring bird flight patterns. The time period of electromagnetic radiation exposure should also be compared with the likelihood of encountering either species in a stationary position during the day. Northern Spotted Owl is a mostly nocturnal species that forages opportunistically during the day (USFWS 2011, p. A-9; Forsman et al. 1984, Sovern et al. 1994). Thus, the species is in a mostly inactive, motionless, and cryptic position during the day, maximizing the potential for inadvertent, longterm exposure. Additionally, during the nesting season, both males and female Marbled Murrelets incubate a single egg in alternating 24-hour shifts. Thus, there is ample opportunity for each species to receive a long-term exposure that may adversely affect individuals, as well as nesting success. Additionally, potential effects to chicks and fledglings should be analyzed. The potential negative effects of electromagnetic radiation on nesting birds and nesting success is acknowledged through citations provided by the Navy (“Effects on birds may include reduced nesting success (Fernie and Reynolds 2005, Balmori 2009) and various behavioral and physiological responses to electromagnetic fields (Fernie et al. 2000, Fernie and Bird 2001), such as disruption of normal sleep-wake cycles through interference with pineal gland and hormonal imbalance.”). However, the Navy does not analyze such potential effects in the context of Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet adults, chicks, or fledglings. The Navy limits its analysis to consider only the issue of duration of exposure as it relates to birds in flight, and cites one study (Bruderer et al. 1999) that did not find electromagnetic radiation (in the microwave range) to affect the flight patterns of nocturnal birds. As such, the Bruderer et al. (1999) citation is insufficient evidence to support the Navy’s conclusions that neither Marbled Murrelet nor Northern Spotted Owl will be adversely affected, as this study focuses on the movement of birds and this during nighttime hours. Thus, the Navy has ignored factor 3 above, by failing to thoroughly consider the biology of each species, including diurnal patterns and nesting habits. The Navy also diminishes the importance of potential effects by stating that mobile unit operations will cease should the single surveyor detect birds from inside the mobile unit. This is no consolation considering that of course, it would be very difficult, if not impossible to detect these highly cryptic species from inside a vehicle. Thus, we disagree that visual surveys conducted from inside each mobile unit would be sufficient to detect Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet during emissions activity. Finally, the Navy states that the directional beam pattern minimizes exposure to radiation, though it is unclear whether the directional beam will intersect with the high forest canopy preferred by these species. Proximity of areas known to be occupied by either species is taken into consideration only generally. Further investigation is needed to evaluate whether adverse effects are to be expected, and the Navy should perform analysis of the likelihood of occupied habitat (particularly nesting habitat) overlap with the directional beams. We are concerned that a lack of regular surveys adjacent to each mobile unit site prior to radiating emissions will repeatedly expose these species to electromagnetic radiation. This issue must be addressed. Type of Radiation The Navy attempts to address the question of radiation type through its citation of Bruderer et al. (1999), which did not find negative impacts to nocturnal birds tracked with an electromagnetic beam at 9 GHz. While we do not contest the findings of this study, we suggest that they are not entirely applicable to determine the effects of this action, because flight patterns alone were analyzed, as described above. Additional analysis is needed to determine that radiation from the mobile emitters (4–8 GHz) would not affect other behaviors, the physiology, and the nesting success of each species. Furthermore, the Navy provides no analysis of the expected effects associated with the fixed emitter at a radiation range of 2–18 GHz for 2,340 hrs/year, or 149,760 hours pulsed per year at 64 simultaneous pulses. Species Receiving the Exposure As described above, the Navy presented virtually no analysis of potential effects on Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet based upon the biology of each species. While information about the status of each species is presented, very little consideration was given to behavioral and life history traits, including diurnal habits, flight patterns, nesting timing and duration, and so on. Most importantly, each species’ biology was not specifically considered with regards to the effects of the action. These and other pertinent questions must be addressed: what is the likelihood that Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet individuals will encounter electromagnetic radiation, at what proximity will this occur, for what duration, how might that radiation affect each species’ biology (physiology, behavior, nesting success, etc.) and hence the ability of each species to recover from being threatened with extinction? Lack of Formal Consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Any action resulting in a “may affect” determination for federally-listed species requires concurrence from USFWS (50 C.F.R. 402.14(a)). The Seattle Audubon Society has been unable to confirm such concurrence to date. We request public dissemination of documentation demonstrating that the Navy has consulted with USFWS on the proposed action, and that USFWS has concurred with the conclusions reached in the EA. If the Navy and USFWS have failed to consult on this specific action, we urge such a consultation and the development of a formal Biological Opinion by USFWS. This formal consultation process should result in an analysis of the effects of the proposed action on federally-listed species, as well as the development of reasonable and prudent alternatives and measures to be implemented by the Navy for the purpose of reducing negative impacts associated with this action. Conclusions We disagree with the Navy that the proposed action “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect” the Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet. The Navy has drawn this conclusion without proper analysis of the effects of the action on each species, including the three factors considered most important (the type of radiation, the duration of exposure, and species receiving the radiation). There are significant concerns related to the following points: (1) many mobile unit sites will be placed in occupied and critical habitat for both species; (2) duration of exposure would in fact appear to be long and continual, although the Navy has discounted this point; (3) no analysis of effects was performed to consider each species’ biology (diurnal patterns and nesting habits); (4) no analysis of effects was performed to consider the effects of the radiation range of 4–8 GHz for the mobile emitters on the behavior, physiology, and nesting success of each species; (5) potentially inaccurate information is provided about the hours of operation for the fixed emitter; and, (6) no analysis of effects was performed to consider impacts related to the radiation range of 2–18 GHz from the fixed emitter on either species. We encourage the Navy to develop a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to analyze these effects thoroughly. Furthermore, any “may affect” determination for federally listed species requires concurrence from USFWS (50 C.F.R. 402.14(a)). The Seattle Audubon Society has been unable to confirm such concurrence to date. We request public dissemination of documentation demonstrating that the Navy has consulted with USFWS on the proposed action, and that USFWS has concurred with the conclusions reached in the EA. If such a consultation has not occurred, we urge the development of a formal Biological Opinion by USFWS. The Seattle Audubon Society appreciates the opportunity to comment on this EA. Sincerely, Susan North Conservation Manager Seattle Audubon Society References Cited Balmori, A. 2009. Electromagnetic pollution from phone masts, effects on wildlife. Pathophysiology 16:191‐199. Bruderer, B., Peter, D., and T. Steuri. 1999. Behavior of migrating birds exposed to X-band and a bright light beam. Journal of Experimental Biology 202:1015-1022. Fernie, K.J., Leonard, N.J., and D.M. Bird. 2000. Behavior of free‐ranging and captive American kestrels under electromagnetic fields. Journal of Toxicology. Environmental Health, Part A:597‐603. Fernie, K.J. and D.M. Bird. 2001. Evidence of oxidative stress in American kestrels exposed to electromagnetic fields. Environmental Research A 86:198‐207. Fernie, K.J. and S.J. Reynolds. 2005. The effects of electromagnetic fields from power lines on avian reproductive biology and physiology: a review. Journal of Toxicology Environmental Health, Part B:127‐140. Forsman, E.D., Meslow, E.C., and H.M. Wight. 1984. Distribution and biology of the spotted owl in Oregon. Wildlife Monographs 87:1–64. Sovern, S.G., Forsman, E.D., Biswell, B.L., Rolph, D.N. and M. Taylor. 1994. Diurnal behavior of the spotted owl in Washington. Condor 96:200–202 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2011. Revised Recovery Plan for the Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, Oregon. xvi + 258 pp. U.S. Navy. 2014. Pacific Northwest EW Range Environmental Assessment (EA). Final EA. September 2014. 228 pp.