Report on June 19, 2013 OLF Community Forum – Executive Summary

this information is from Commissioner Helen Price Johnson.

Report on June 19, 2013 OLF Community Forum – Executive Summary

Overview of event
Mayor Nancy Conard and Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson hosted a facilitated community conversation with Central Whidbey residents and business owners on  June 19, 2013 to address the challenges created by the transition to Growler planes at OLF  field. Staff members from Representative Rick Larsen’s office as well as Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell’s offices attended. The focus was on identifying the impact of the airfield  activities and exploring possible operational mitigation strategies. This event provided a venue for elected officials to hear directly from Central Whidbey citizens. They in turn  would work with local Navy leadership to seek viable solutions to the concerns.

Survey result tabulation
The meeting resulted in over 200 surveys being filled out describing the resulting economic and personal challenges in the last few years. Most surveys were collected during the event,  but due to the overflow crowd, forms were also provided electronically upon request. Several dozen additional messages were received as public comment during this time period.  The survey results have been tabulated and shared with congressional staff members as well as local Navy leadership.

A majority of the participants who attended the forum reported significant impact from the recent transition to Growlers at the Out-lying Field. Many voiced a desire to close the OLF  field. Others supported continued use of the field with some operational restrictions to reduce negative impacts. Other input received at the event was in support of maintaining the  current level of use for training exercises. Small group discussion was held with participants identifying the most significant impact for them – personally or professionally. Many specific  suggestions were offered to mitigate impacts on the surrounding community. Attendees prioritized these strategies.

All survey input has been compiled and is summarized on the attached graphs.





Coupeville Responses Pie Chart

These figures are based on the surveys received by the Island County Commissioners office and the Town of Coupeville office.

Some suggested operational mitigations strategies:

  • Reduce the hours of operation
  • Limit the number of days per week
  • Reduce the number of planes per rotation
  • Alter flight patterns
  • Divert more training flights to other air fields


Survey summary

  • 233 Total survey forms collected by Island County (100%)
  • 44 Total non-survey comments received by Island County


Follow up

A couple of significant events have taken place since the June meeting. In early July the Navy issued a moratorium on all OLF flights through the end of the calendar year, shifting flight exercises to Ault Field in Oak Harbor. They have stated that this action is “unsustainable” for meeting longer term training requirements for their pilots. On July 15, 2013 a local non-profit group filed a law suit against Naval Air Station –Whidbey Island citing a violation of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). Due to the pending litigation, the Navy has officially restricted the ability of local base leadership to discuss areas connected with the suit.

Despite the current constraints, Mayor Conard and Commissioner Price Johnson seek long- term sustainable solutions which minimize negative impacts to our local community, support mission requirements and provide adequate training for Navy pilots.

“We will continue to share information with our congressional representatives,” explained Mayor Conard. “Our focus is on working together to communicate our community’s needs with Navy leadership and increasing the local understanding of operational capacity needs for the Base.” Commissioner Price Johnson added, “However the lawsuit and environmental study turn out, there will be options on the table. It is important that we remain in respectful dialogue as neighbors.” Mayor Conard agreed, “The community can come together through this process, and retain its tradition of cohesion and mutual support.”

No Comments

  1. Al Williams

    The noise of a Growler taking off is enough to startle elderly drivers or anyone not expecting it, and cause accidents on nearby roads and Hwy 20.

    Why not build an OLF on one of the many small islands out in the Sound or Salish Sea? But then I suppose that would end up with deaf or dead Orcas and two-headed salmon. How about over the hills out away from Yakima where it could melt the sand and kill rattlesnakes?
    The Navy sure has spent a lot more money more frivolously than for something like this that will benefit the citizenry they claim to serve.

    Aircraft models and their noise levels change from time to time and have to be reckoned with. Other airport have had to make adjustments for civilian and residential development even when the developments came later in time. Does it make sense to harm those you claim to protect?

    1. Joe A Kunzler


      As such I’m open to an EIS discussing the following alternatives:

      a) No Action
      b) Eminent Domain of 2 NM around OLF Coupeville
      c) A third runway at NAS Whidbey Island
      d) A new OLF either at the Yakima Firing Range or the Hanford Nuclear Reservation where the Growlers would have to land, refuel to get to the right fuel weight to practice carrier landings (they can’t do so with a full load), do their practices, then ‘come home to us’.
      e) Turning Skagit Regional into OLF Joe Kunzler for my entertainment.

      I think most people who know the issues would agree we need to get to the truth of the matter.

      1. Al Williams

        Thanks for the complimentary assumption, Mr. Joe Kunzler, but I have no authority to make any changes. Do you? If you have authority to negotiate for the Navy, it is probably best for you to contact the attorney for the CoER group, Barbara Lichman, Ph.D. 949 224-6292 or Moreover, my wife and I don’t live all that close to the OLF to be affected like those who do. I only wrote from my experience having one of the growlers zoom overhead as I was entering one of the turns of Hwy. 20 where it goes around the field. It was my first up close experience with the Growler sound and it was jarring to say the least. I’m glad there wasn’t a car coming at me from the opposite direction at that moment when my attention was toward the sky to see what the Sam Hill was happening. I thought something had exploded over our heads. I’d expect a driver coming from the other direction would be as hazardously affected. So there, I’ve said the least. I’ll let others say the most.

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