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