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Additional handling wharf at Bangor will be costly
The front page of the Herald on June 26 announced the Navy's plans to build a second explosives handling wharf at Bangor. No cost estimates were given, even though the Navy when it canceled the same plans in June 2008, stated the wharf would cost $780 million.
In their recent scoping meeting in Poulsbo, the Navy failed to make a convincing case for the need of an additional wharf in view of both the adverse consequences of construction and the current trend toward the reduction of nuclear weapons.
Joe Graf, from the Navy’s Strategic Systems Programs in Washington D.C., is quoted as saying, “What we’re looking at is the future.” Does the Navy hope to build the wharf before it is obvious there is no need for it?
Navy records released through the Freedom of Information Act state that a second wharf at Bangor would not be needed until the fleet homeported ten submarines as opposed to the present eight. The entire Trident submarine fleet, based in Georgia and at Bangor, has only 14 submarines; and according to the Navy’s 30-year plan for Fiscal Year 2009, the current fleet will be reduced to a total of 12 when existing subs are replaced with new ones.
On May 5 of this year, President Barack Obama informed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Review Conference Preparatory Committee that he will take new steps to cut our nuclear arsenal, about 43 percent of which currently consists of Trident nuclear warheads. On July 6, Obama signed the Joint Understanding for the START Follow-On Treaty with Russian President Medvedev which sets the stage for cutting both nations’ number of warheads and will probably also cut the number of delivery vehicles, including Trident submarines. The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review may well reduce the total Trident fleet to 10. The Navy is required to examine the environmental consequences of the alternatives of repairing or remodeling the existing facility instead of building a new one. The proposed new wharf includes a deep water trestle constructed upon 2,600 pilings up to three feet in diameter drilled into the seabed of Hood Canal. The trestle would be about 40 feet wide with roads for transportation of Trident nuclear missiles to and from shore.
In addition to the usual adverse environmental impacts of construction of a project of this magnitude (traffic, noise, light, etc.) on land, the sinking of pilings will disturb the already threatened waters and floor of Hood Canal and the proposed increase in wharf activity will result in additional marine traffic — not only submarines but also construction barges, tugs and other vessels — adding pollution to the waters and disturbing marine life on the canal.
The Navy has failed to address the safety risks of increased explosives handling activity at the site and the additional potential for accidents while moving nuclear missiles from submarines, loading them onto trucks and transporting them to and from shore. The rocket propellant on a single Trident submarine has the explosive capacity equal to 3.7 million pounds of TNT and is capable of detonation upon impact. An accident at the wharf could detonate the propellant causing an explosion which would shatter windows in North Kitsap and release plutonium throughout Puget Sound.
The Navy tries to bolster its case for building a second explosives handling wharf by citing the increased jobs which will result from the anticipated four- year construction process. The environmental costs and safety risks associated with the proposed project outweigh that short term gain. Certainly something more useful and necessary could be supplied to the public with $780 million dollars in today's economy. That money would buy a lot of health care, build a lot of schools, rehire a lot of teachers, and go a long way to restoring the water quality of the canal.
The public has until July 17 to submit comments to the Navy, which recently declined to extend that comment period. Comments can be made on the Navy’s website at https://ehw.nbkeis.com or by e-mailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments can also be mailed to Department of the Navy, Strategic Systems Programs, Public Affairs Officer, 2521 South Clark St., Suite 1000, Arlington, VA 22202-3930. It is important for citizens who are concerned about govenment waste and improving the state of Hood Canal to immediately contact Senators Murray and Cantwell and Representative Inslee as well, letting them know we do not need and cannot afford the wharf nor its accompanying adverse impact to our environment, and that we expect them to assure that our tax money is used for projects which will enhance the local quality of life.