Jefferson County commissioners eye assessment of Whidbey Island jet noise

Kirk Boxleitner kboxleitner@ptleader.com
Posted 3/14/17

The U.S. Navy is facing pressure to conduct a health impact assessment of military jet noise exposure in Island County. Jefferson County commissioners see it as validation of their own residents' …

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Jefferson County commissioners eye assessment of Whidbey Island jet noise

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The U.S. Navy is facing pressure to conduct a health impact assessment of military jet noise exposure in Island County. Jefferson County commissioners see it as validation of their own residents' concerns.

Following a March 8 meeting, the state Board of Health and the state Department of Health have both requested health impact assessments related to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, with the Department of Health agreeing to help conduct the assessment if the Navy should refuse.

Jefferson County commissioners had already sent the Navy a letter Feb. 21, in response to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island's request for comments on the environmental impacts of Growler jet operations. The letter cited concerns about loss of sleep for citizens, quality of life, property values and tourist traffic due to military jet noise exposure.

Jefferson County Commission chair Kathleen Kler said that the commissioners have voiced those same concerns to Navy representatives in person.

“I appreciate that this latest decision appears to widen the conversation about the quality of noise and its potential harmful impacts,” Kler said.

“I think the state Department of Health's response shows that the health concerns of our own citizens are legitimate,” Commissioner Kate Dean added.

At the same time, Dean reiterated her optimistic outlook on coming to a mutually agreeable outcome in Jefferson County.

“We've had much more collaborative relationships with our fellow government agencies,” Dean said. “There's a bit more alignment between the county and the City of Port Townsend, as well as the Navy.”

While she acknowledged the conflicts between Island County and the Navy regarding the amount and quality of noise coming from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Dean said she believes Jefferson County and the Navy “are more able to discuss this in an open, civil way.”

This comment comes in the wake of Maryon Attwood of Citizens of Ebey's Reserve stating in a March 10 press release that an Island County Board of Health resolution has restricted public comments about noise and health at public meetings.

“Citizens who bring up this issue currently are being asked to stop speaking or be removed from meetings,” Attwood wrote.

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