The Navy on Wednesday confirmed it plans to seek permission for wide-scale SEAL training in the Puget Sound region, including at public beaches in the South Sound.
The proposal is not yet ready for public review because the military still is considering which sites it wants to pursue, Navy Special Warfare spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Mark Walton said.
It’s not clear when the proposal will be reviewed for compliance with federal environmental and historic preservation laws. The public and local governments will have an opportunity to comment on it before the Navy begins any new training, he said.
“Any proposal will be fully analyzed, it will be coordinated with local and civilian authorities and it will be all conducted in compliance with the law,” Walton said.
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Truth Out, an activist news website, this week published documents that showed almost 70 sites where the Navy would like to offer training to SEAL teams, including at Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park and the Gig Harbor Marina.
The document reflected a mix of new training the Navy wants to begin as well as events that already occur in Puget Sound at Navy facilities and at several state parks where SEAL teams have permission to practice light-footprint swimming and boating exercises.
The Navy wants to train more often here because Puget Sound poses some distinct challenges, such as high currents and cold water.
The Navy also has medical facilities close by at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and Naval Hospital Bremerton that could be helpful in an emergency.
“Navy Special Warfare has trained in the Pacific Northwest for over 30 years,” Walton said. “We have a longstanding relationship with local officials and coordinate routinely with military and civil authorities to gain approval.”
The Navy in November notified the governor’s office and the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation that it was considering a large environmental study that would open the door to expanded SEAL training in Puget Sound.
Neither state office had heard from the Navy about the proposal since then.
Three Pierce County locations were on the list of proposed sites.
The Port of Tacoma was one, and it has hosted SEAL training in the past. Metro Parks Tacoma and the City of Gig Harbor had not heard from the Navy about the proposal until The News Tribune called this week.
A new environmental study on SEAL training in the region might allow the Navy to pursue exercises that are more complex than the permits it uses now for events at state parks.
Today, those permits allow swimming, diving and boat activities that anyone might practice on a state beach.
The anticipated proposal follows two other high-profile military requests to use public land for enhanced training in the Northwest.
The Navy is seeking permission to send satellite trucks into the Olympic National Forest on old logging roads for exercises with jets stationed at Whidbey Island. The Army, meanwhile, wants to establish several high-altitude helicopter training areas in the North Cascades.