Navy green-lights additional Growler flights for region

Sound Defense Alliance meets in PT March 21 to discuss noisy jets

Posted 3/20/19

The U.S. Navy’s decisions to add 36 EA-18G “Growler” jets to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, and to quadruple the number of flight operations at Outlying Field Coupeville, has drawn strong responses from residents of Port Townsend and the rest of the Olympic Peninsula.

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Navy green-lights additional Growler flights for region

Sound Defense Alliance meets in PT March 21 to discuss noisy jets

Posted

The U.S. Navy’s decisions to add 36 EA-18G “Growler” jets to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, and to quadruple the number of flight operations at Outlying Field Coupeville, has drawn strong responses from residents of Port Townsend and the rest of the Olympic Peninsula.

Navy representatives framed these decisions as calculated to affect as few people as possible in the surrounding communities, while still fulfilling their national defense requirements by providing realistic training conditions for naval aviators.

“OLF Coupeville’s pattern best replicates the aircraft carrier landing pattern, building and reinforcing the correct habits and muscle memory for pilots,” read a March 13 statement by the public affairs office of Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command. “OLF Coupeville sits on a 200-foot ridge surrounded by flat terrain, similar to the aircraft carrier operating on the water.”

The statement acknowledged this would amount to an increase from approximately 90 to 360 hours in aircraft activity at OLF Coupeville.

The Oak Harbor Area Council of the Navy League issued a press statement of its own March 13, pointing out that the Navy’s decisions would increase the Growler inventory to less than 60 percent of NAS Whidbey Island’s historic carrier jet numbers.

The Oak Harbor Area Council also cited OLF’s 60-plus-year history of jet landings, and countered assertions that naval operations have adversely impacted the area.

“Despite determined efforts to portray Whidbey Island as ‘toxic’ due to the Navy, Whidbey possesses one of the most robust economies, healthiest counties, strong real estate and business valuations, fully abundant wildlife, top state park, and significantly increasing tourism,” the council’s statement read.

Joe Kunzler, author of the petition calling for an Environmental Impact Statement into OLF Coupeville, expressed his gratitude to the the Navy’s Record of Decision, which he said “took into account what the petition signers wanted” when they signed the petition back in 2013.

“The science is clear, the EIS is through and the need for land use reform on Central Whidbey is clear,” Kunzler said. “A great nation listens, then acts from science and compassion for her citizens.  That is what America did and will continue to do here.”

While Kunzler considers land use reform to be “desperately needed” on Whidbey Island, he nonetheless considers it “the highest privilege and honor I could have as an American” to help ensure the Navy receives the proper training.

“I ask the media please reflect civilian Navy supporters’ voices in your coverage for balance,” Kunzler said. “Please do not make this a two-dimensional civilians against the Navy story. There is a lot more to this.”

The members of the Sound Defense Alliance have differed with Kunzler’s sentiments, citing the Navy’s Final EIS, which lists “significant impacts” in the deterioration of the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, the reduction of affordable housing, degraded visitor experiences in state and local parks throughout the region, nine “outdoor speech interference” events per hour in schools and residential areas and 1,794 non-Navy individuals exposed to permanent hearing loss.

Prior to the Navy’s decisions regarding NAS Whidbey Island and OLF Coupeville, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer had already declined to continue measuring jet noise on the Ebey’s Landing historical properties.

“In the past, the Navy has been a good partner,” said Maryon Attwood, chair of the Sound Defense Alliance. “But across the region, our elected officials, community leaders and citizens all agree that this proposal is just asking too much from our part of Washington.”

Attwood declared the SDA would resist the region becoming “collateral damage” to this expansion.

“We are committed to continuing to work with our elected officials, and people across the state and nation, to get the Navy to listen and to achieve a better and sustainable outcome,” Attwood said.

Larry Morrell, SDA member and Port Townsend resident, warned that the scope of these decisions would extend far beyond Whidbey Island.

“The Growler jet noise, and the negative consequences of this expansion, are going to impact the entire region,” Morrell said. “This decision by the Navy has the potential to damage every aspect of life in Northwest Washington. Together, we will work to find a solution that balances our national security and our state. We will not accept this decision as final.”

To that end, the SDA is working with the National Parks Conservation Association to coordinate a series of meetings throughout the Olympic Peninsula, with one scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. March 21 at the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend.

Those interested in attending may RSVP to ptgrowler.eventbrite.com.

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