Public learns about Navy's proposed submarine range

By ED FRIEDRICH | Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, Wash. | Published: August 18, 2012

SILVERDALE, Wash. — Citizens studied displays and quizzed experts during a public hearing on the Navy's proposed Hood Canal electromagnetic measurement ranging system. It's a relatively simple project, but, as the name suggests, an abstract concept, and people dropped by Silverdale Community Center Thursday evening to learn about it.

The range, near Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, would measure the magnetic signature of the area's submarines.

During operations, submarines cross the Earth's natural magnetic fields between the North and South poles, and build up magnetic signatures that can be detected by planes and ships. The signatures indicate a sub's susceptibility to threats, and must be reset occasionally at a magnetic silencing facility by exposing the boat to high electrical currents.

"To try to minimize that effect, we will change the magnetic property of the steel," said David Lin, the Navy's magnetic silencing facility program manager.

Thirteen Kitsap-based submarines now must travel to Pearl Harbor or San Diego to measure their magnetic signatures. Ironically, Bangor's magnetic silencing facility closed in January and subs also have to go to Hawaii for that service. Silencing isn't needed often, and they won't go just for that reason.

Conversely, the Navy wants to measure their magnetic signatures often. Submarines would travel over the sensors every trip in and out of Bangor "to see if anything needs to be done to reduce that signature and make it more stealthy," said Chris Pollard of Submarine Force Pacific.

Pollard, as the command's magnetic silencing adviser, took responsibility for the Bangor range proposal.

"This is the one homeport that doesn't have a range, and that is a deficiency," he said. "There's a mission requirement to take these measurements. We haven't been meeting those requirements."

The range would be just north of the base in Hood Canal Military Operating Area North. A couple that owns waterfront property near there worried about erosion. They said subs already erode the beach, and now they'll be swerving closer to go over sensors about a half mile from shore.

Good point. Write it on a comment sheet, they were asked.

They also worried about a 15 foot by 15 foot platform, standing 20-some feet high, about a quarter mile out. They don't want to look at it all the time.

Please write a comment, they were asked.

The platform would sit on five pilings, but they could probably be installed in one day.

Others asked about interruption of fishing and boating, and electronic interference.

There'll be no interference, electronic or recreational. The 400-foot-wide array of 21 sensors would only operate during the few minutes it takes a submarine to cross over it, and even then it would just be reading, not emitting. It and cables would be buried four feet deep. There would be no restrictions for boaters, crabbers, fishers or geoduckers. If they see a submarine coming, they just get out of the way, as they do now.

Three months of in-water work would be performed outside of fishing season, Lin said. Geoducks were recently harvested there and won't be again for five years. (Project construction would take place July 15, 2014 to Oct. 1, 2014.) The range is in 70 feet of water so the subs can be read while traveling on the surface. There is little to no eelgrass at that depth, Lin said.

There is no estimated price.

Comments at this initial stage of the environmental review process will be considered in the preparation of the draft environmental assessment. To be considered, comments must be received by Aug. 30. They can be submitted at the public meeting, via an online form at www.emmrea.com, or mailed to Wes Miksa, environmental planner, NAVFAC Northwest, 1101 Tautog Circle, Room 203, Silverdale, WA 98315.