From the Orcas Issues…. This problem is regional. Harming San Juan County residents!

Guest Opinion: Ongoing Growler Noise
December 4, 2013
– from Angie Ponder, Lopez Island –

Regarding the Orcas Issues editorial 11/27, “What’s With the Rumble?” the sound you are hearing is very familiar to residents of Lopez, where that rumble actually causes window-rattling, especially on the south end of the island. You were correct in identifying it as the sound of the Navy’s EA-18G’s electronic attack aircraft, aptly named “the Growler.” My guess is that (sadly) residents county-wide will be hearing more of that sound in the future.

Over the last several years the Navy has been expanding operations out of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. A lawsuit engendered by the significant increase of noise on Whidbey Island contributed to the Navy’s call for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to study the effects of ongoing and future EA-18G operations, including plans to add an additional 13 aircraft.

“Touch and go” operations at OLF were suspended over the summer and fall in response to the lawsuit. The resulting period of relative “quiet” (ha!) will soon come to an end. Those ops will likely resume again beginning in January, coincident with the end of the public comment period for the EIS. In addition to ongoing training operations, six teams from the Royal Australian Air Force will begin 3 years of Growler flight training on Whidbey also starting in January. (See the links at Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve website for a wealth of information on this subject.)

Environmental Assessments by the Navy in 2005 and 20012 concluded that the Growler is not quite as loud as the EA-6B Prowler it is replacing. This is, of course, no one’s subjective experience of the sound created by these aircraft. I personally experience the sound as a shattering of the atmosphere, both externally and internally. I don’t hear it in my head, rather, I feel it in my gut. It engenders a sort of pre-conscious stress response which I suspect is related to the “frequency” of the sound, which is somewhat lower than that of the Prowler.

At any rate, things are getting ready to go from bad to worse as relates to our aural environment, and not just here on Lopez. The recent post on Orcas Issues wondering about the “low rumble” is a case in point. Low-frequency sounds carry farther than high-frequency sounds. Presumably there will be increased impacts over a broader area of San Juan County, including San Juan Island, as I’m sure folks there have noticed the greater incidence of near fly-overs in recent months.

I do not believe that San Juan County residents are very informed of the impending change to the quality of life here. NAS Whidbey is becoming the new home base for all of the Navy’s projected 114 Growler aircraft. Hopefully the County Council will be interested in weighing in on this issue, even though the most egregious (loudest) impacts will effect a minority of county residents. (Kevin Ranker and Patty Murray have both been supportive of expansions at NAS Whidbey, despite the fact that training for these aircraft would be more suited to a less populated area like the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake, CA.)

The deadline for public input during the scoping period for the EIS is January 3. Comments may be posted online at the Navy’s website at: Environmental Impact Statement for the EA-18G Growler Airfield Operations (Then click on Comments).

Let’s hope that the EIS scope is broad and comprehensive. The effects of noise pollution are psychophysical. The area of environmental concern extends well beyond the immediate vicinity of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. And this issue is about more than just decibels.

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Guest Opinion: Ongoing Growler Noise — 1 Comment

Jackie Wolf on December 6, 2013 at 12:07 pm said:
Thanks to Angie for providing us with such excellent information. Many of us care very much about these issues but Angie has taken the time to really do her research and share the information with the rest of us … hoping we will “take the ball and keep running with it”. I certainly intend to. I also live on the south end of Lopez and for years, it is downright terrifying, whether you’re in your home or outside, on a beach, anywhere, when these killing machines roar through the skies. Anyone who has ever been in a war zone knows the effects on one’s psyche. And, as Angie says, it is going to get worse, much worse. Let’s all make our voices heard as much as possible above the din of “the sound of freedom”…………

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