Timing of upcoming war games draws fire

Lt. Col. Tim Bobinski, of Alaskan Command/Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, discusses Northern Edge 17, a joint military training operation scheduled for the Gulf of Alaska May 1-12, 2017, with the Cordova City Council and the public on Dec. 7, in the Cordova Center. Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times

Representatives from the Alaska Command and U.S. Navy offered information regarding the U.S. Pacific Command’s upcoming Northern Edge 2019 exercise during a recent city council work session and responded to sharp criticism of those plans from a packed house.

Many in attendance at the May 6 session took issue with the timing of NE2019 in the Gulf of Alaska, saying that the date coincides with a critical time in the commercial fishing season.

“(The salmon) go to the Copper River … and when they do, that is almost exactly in the time frame of your exercises,” said fisheries veteran and former Mayor Kelley Weaverling.

“The time is just the worst for our community,” added councilmember David Allison. “… We appreciate (your training) … but we can’t survive without our fish either.”

Military officials responded that the main reason for the May timeframe was due to the safety of the forces in the trainings. They cited weather and temperature conditions as a way to mitigate risks which is what ultimately led to the decision of the May training session.

Councilmember Jeff Guard echoed further comments from those in attendance, who were dissatisfied with the level of action taken to address their concerns in years prior.

“We understand that we as a group and a nation need to exercise to figure out how to best protect ourselves …,” Guard said. “But we’re feeling … as being the ones that are burdened to carry all the risk for all of this for everybody and our voices really don’t count.”

The Navy plans on using a level of expended materials similar to those used in NE2017, exercises included no bombs, no missiles, 28 all non-explosive naval gun shells, 2,500 rounds of small arms and no sonobuoys.

For more information on the potential direct impact on marine species and marine environment from the training, visit goaeis.com to view the 2016 Final Supplemental EIS/OEIS.