Sound Defense Alliance organizes against Growlers

Posted 3/27/19

The one point of consensus at the Sound Defense Alliance’s March 21 community meeting was, in the words of Alliance member and Port Townsend resident Larry Morrell, “We’re all anxious to do something.”

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Sound Defense Alliance organizes against Growlers

Posted

The one point of consensus at the Sound Defense Alliance’s March 21 community meeting was, in the words of Alliance member and Port Townsend resident Larry Morrell, “We’re all anxious to do something.”

That gathering, at the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend ,was one of five conducted by the Alliance on the Olympic Peninsula and in the Puget Sound region, in response to the U.S. Navy’s decisions to add 36 EA-18G “Growler” jets at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, and to increase their landing practice at Naval Outlying Field Coupeville.

Julia Tesch, outreach manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, described her organization’s 100-year mission to protect parks as a way of preserving its landscape. She informed attendees of its Hear Our Olympics campaign to safeguard the “natural soundscape” of the Olympic National Park, including the Hoh Rain Forest, which she deemed “one of the quietest places in the lower 48” states.

“We’re pro-park, not anti-Navy,” Tesch said, before presenting a short film in which veterans such as Brandon Kuehn and Chuck Nelson recounted how loud jet noises have triggered their post-traumatic stress disorders, which they credited Olympic National Park with soothing through the relative silence and solitude it offers.

Tesch explained how the National Environmental Policy Act requires a public comment period and an Environmental Impact Statement and a study of the cumulative impacts whenever a federal agency project could impact the environment.

Tesch criticized the Navy for “fragmenting” this process into smaller pieces, thereby “minimizing its impact,” but she also saw an opportunity in the multiple public comment periods this has created.

“If you look at the reasons the Navy listed for choosing this area, they all boil down to convenience,” Tesch said. “We can make it inconvenient for them by submitting a lot of public comments. They can choose to train elsewhere. We can’t move the Olympic National Park.”

Morrell explained the Sound Defense Alliance is a group of 20 groups concerned with the noise, environmental and other impacts of local Navy jet flights, which Morrell fears will threaten the region’s ecological diversity, economic strength and quality of life.

Morrell reported the Alliance claims 25,000 members between them, and just as Tesch recommended meeting with one’s state legislators and representatives in Congress, so too did Morrell note that the Alliance has voiced its concerns to elected officials including Gov. Jay Inslee.

“Our state Department of Commerce is trying to attract even more of a military presence here,” said Morrell, who says there are potential health risks that come with that much noise concentrated in one area.

“We have to create a large, un-ignorable presence by meeting with these people eye to eye,” Morrell said.

Fellow SDA member Teresa Purcell amplified this call to contact the government, pointing out the Navy’s budget is set by Congress.

“It might seem impossible to take on the Navy, but if we don’t, they will win,” Purcell said. “We can’t ask for anything crazy, like for them to close their bases, but as citizens, we can let them know we will not be their collateral damage. We can initiate discussions about the long-term role of the military in the region, and we can ensure there are citizen voices at that table.”

In addition to corresponding with elected officials, Purcell urged the region’s residents to spread word to other members of their communities about these issues.

“You are our best messengers to your friends and neighbors,” Purcell said, while also exhorting would-be activists to develop “productive relationships” with those in government. “It’s easy to get discouraged, but the cure for that is to do something. Write letters to the editor. Submit testimony for the EIS. We need at least three times the number of people in this room. Regardless of your skill-set, you can help.”

After Ann Harding called upon attendees of the March 21 meeting to raise $5,000, Morrell said “We can do way better than that,” and handed over a check for $1,000, toward a new goal of $10,000.

Before Tesch explained how to download an app to track and report Growler noises, which will be available in the near future at the NPCS website at npca.org, Harding confirmed for Port Townsend City Council member Michelle Sandoval that a lawsuit is being explored as an option.

Comments

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Justin Hale

I don't understand those who oppose the U.S.Navy practicing over a U.S. National Forest, they cite the noise factor, Waaaa. I've lived in Jefferson County since 1999 and maybe twice I've heard the Navy jets doing their practice runs, one time I was at one of our fine restaurants on the waterfront, I enjoyed the show. Get over it people, it's the sound of Your freedom.

Wednesday, March 27
Tom Camfield

I'm surely not alone in being unable to mentally connect flights over the Hoh River rainforest to excessive audio discomfort to the general public connected with airplane practice landings on Whidbey Island. I would expect, however, some heavy objection from residents living closer than I to the airfields in the Coupeville-Oak Harbor area. So I"ve tended to leave arguments over perspective and values more to those right next door to things.

I do know that Whidbey Naval Air has been around since its commissioning in 1942, early in World War II, sited there in large part because of the area's superior applicable topography. Much like our nearby Indian Island depot fuels and arms our warships, Whidbey began in part as a refueling station. We also had an anti-submarine net across Port Townsend Bay—although there are relatively few of us around who remember that. Same for the boom of Coast Artillery guns practice firing at Fort Worden.

In this day and age it's always been a certain measure of security to me having facilities nearby from which planes could be scrambled in the event of threats against Indian Island or submarine facilities at Keyport. Working in coordination with aircraft carriers and our own missile-launching vessels at sea.

Here in Uptown Port Townsend, I hear planes sometimes around 5 a.m. or perhaps occasionally well after dark. But they are not a real disturbance or even of a lasting nature. I find it hard to believe that any of it's rattling windows or loosening bricks on some old building downtown. I also live about a block and a half from the county courthouse, where a loud bell rings the hour around the clock and has been since the 1890s. I hardly ever even notice it anymore.

With population increase moving ever forward, it doesn't seem logical to move backward by replacing Whidbey operations at some ineffective inland location, putting the problem in someone else's back yard and adding critical seconds of flight time to the coastal area in an emergency in this instantaneous world.

Monday, April 1