Several locations on and around Whidbey Island could be used for Navy Special Warfare Unit (SEAL) training if a proposal before the military was to be put into practice.
The activist website Truth Out published the proposal by Naval Special Warfare Group Three earlier this week, which caught the eye of the Citizens of Ebeys Reserve, who oppose the proposal.
“It doesn’t always have to be this way, with the military encroaching on quiet communities, national parks, national forests, state parks, private marinas and other civilian public areas when they have so much land already to train on,” according to the COER website. “With your involvement, it won’t be this way.”
Although the document is only a preliminary one, according to Lt. Cmdr. Mark Walton, who spoke to the Tacoma News Tribune, any proposal would be subject to public comment when completed.
The Pacific Northwest offers valuable training opportunities for Navy personnel, Walton said. The area’s high tides and cold water are challenging.
The document lists a total of 68 sites. Of those, six are located on Whidbey Island and include Deception Pass, Joseph Whidbey State Park, Fort Ebey State Park, Fort Casey State Park, South Whidbey State Park and Oak Harbor. Other Island County locations include Camano Island and Cama Beach State Park.
Types of proposed training include over-the-beach, in which personnel would exit a small watercraft and move to a pre-designated location on the beach, remaining hidden for a time before exiting the location; Insertion and extraction exercises would allow personnel to insert and extract people and equipment during the day or night; and surveillance and reconnaissance. The Oak Harbor location would also include combat swimmer and launch and recovery operations.
Seal training at state parks is not new. It has been conducted at five state parks for a number of years.
“It’s called a Right of Entry Permit, which allows only a brief point of landing,” explained Virginia Painter, communications director for Washington State Parks. “Under this permit, they are allowed one small craft and a small crew, and sometimes a small crew on land. Mostly this is done at night so no one even notices.”
In order for any kind of training to take place at Whidbey Island state parks, or for there to be any changes in training activities, new permits would have to be filed. Painter said there have been no new permit applications.
According to the proposal, training events would last between two to 72 hours and would be non-invasive, meaning there would be no live fire, no digging or cutting of vegetation, etc. The goal, according to the proposal is to remain undetected and to leave no sign of any personnel’s presence. The proposal also states that it is possible not all sites listed would be used every year and those used most often would average two to eight uses annually.