THIS ARTICLE IS FROM THE STANWOOD CAMANO NEWS
Posted: Tuesday, September 9, 2014 11:18 am | Updated: 11:20 am, Tue Sep 9, 2014.
Annie James is relieved.
Since Labor Day weekend, the Navy jets have stopped.
“I just realized how stressed I was,” James said.
A resident of the Madrona area of Camano Island for more than 10 years, she doesn’t want to complain too much because her father was a Navy commander.
Nonetheless, she doesn’t agree that it’s “the price of freedom.”
“It’s downright painful, especially at midnight,” she said. “Noise canceling head phones don’t help.”
James said it’s been worse in the last three years— much like the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
When Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island proposed adding another squadron of EA-18G Growlers, residents of Whidbey Island complained.
In light of the potential for more flights, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard and Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson called on the Navy to allow more public input.
On July 25, the Navy agreed to expand the scope of an ,Environmental Impact Study (EIS) on a new expeditionary squadron and on, the Navy announced it would of its EIS.
But even then, the noise continued, James said.
“It was really bad in July and August,” she said, while acknowledging that the test flights do have different courses, and it’s a relief when they are on different routes.
A vocal group on Whidbey, the Citizens of Ebey Reserve (COER) is most concerned about the Navy’s use of Coupeville’s Outlying Field (OLF) for flight landing practices.
COER’s documents cited CDR Jeannie Groeneveld, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Pacific Fleet of the Naval Air Force in Seapower Magazine.
“A new date (for the squadron) will not be set until after the completion of the environmental impact study,” Groeneveld said.
But the president of COER, Michael Monson, wanted more.
“Since the Navy has announced that it is delaying the formation of a new Growler squadron until the EIS is complete, COER believes it is reasonable to request a delay of training flights at OLF as well,” Monson said.
He also requested a timeline for the amended EIS process to be published, so “hard-working people” won’t miss the chance to have their say.
The group has been working together since the Navy did an EIS on its proposed change from Prowlers to Growlers.
NAS Whidbey Island is the biggest naval aviation installation in the Pacific Northwest and home of all Navy tactical electronic attack squadrons flying the EA-6B Prowler and EA-18G Growler.
Through its exploration of official documents, COER determined that “it seems likely that the Navy is thinking about abandoning its land based expeditionary squadrons and making all Growlers carrier based.”
“This would make life in Oak Harbor to Langley, from Port Townsend to Lopez and over many towns in Skagit County, very different,” he said.
Camano Island, too.
For James, the solution lies in the idea of doing trainings off shore.
The Navy has announced it is amending the Growler EIS, pushing the draft deadline of the Growler EIS out to 2016 or 2017, Monson said.
But, on the heels of this announcement, they resumed a pace of training flights not seen since 2012, he said.
The impact on Whidbey Island residents is more intense than in outlying regions. A small business owner there, Maryon Attwood said in COER documents, that she found the Navy’s “Good Neighbor” policy highly questionable. Attwood said the flights are hard on business. At farmers markets, sales are lost as potential customers flee when the jets fly over, she said.
COER is calling on the Navy to delay the use of the OLF as they did in 2013, while the Navy studies the formation of the new squadron.
While Rep. Rick Larsen encouraged the Navy to widen the scope of the EIS, he will not take a further stand against the test flights.
“I support the efforts of the Navy,” he said, during a community coffee meeting at Camano Center Wednesday. “But I also encourage the community to communicate their preferences.”
Comments on the EIS and noise complaints can be directed to NAS Whidbey Island’s new comment line at 360-257-6665, or via email to comments.NASWI@navy.mil.
All other questions can be directed to NAS Whidbey Island Public Affairs Offic, 360-257-2286.
For information about COER, citizensofebeysreserve.com or 612 306 4800.