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National parks group sues U.S. Navy in pursuit of information on Growler jet training

Growler jets
John Froschauer
The Associated Press
Navy EA-18G Growlers fly overhead before the start of the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Seattle Seahawks in the first half of an NFL NFC wild card playoff football game, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011, in Seattle.

A national parks organization filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy last week, related to jet training at Air Station Whidbey Island.

The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association sued the Navy to get more information about the exercises, which are planned for one of the quietest places in the lower 48.

The association submitted a Freedom of Information Act request in 2016, to learn more about the impacts of noise from Growler jets. The Navy says the training exercises with the aircraft could increase to as many as 5,000 a year over the Olympic Mountains.

The National Parks Conservation Association says they've received limited information about the increased trainings. The group argues the flights could significantly alter Olympic National Park, which is a World Heritage Site. And they say Growler noise already obscures natural sounds, such as the whistles of Olympic marmots and bugle calls of Roosevelt elk.

A public comment period on the Navy's latest training proposal was recently extended to June 12. National Parks Conservation Association officials say they need complete information to make informed comments on the environmental impacts of the proposal.

"There's a lot we simply haven't seen that we believe is there, because the Navy references it, but they haven't provided it,” regional director Rob Smith said in a news release from the group. “We'd like to get that information so that we can understand fully what they're proposing to do, and also whether they've thought of other ways to do it."

Among the information requested, the group has asked whether naval officials measured effects of noise on wildlife, as well as correspondence between the Navy and the Federal Aviation Administration related to use of the airspace.  

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