Post Office Box 202
Coupeville, Washington 98239
December 16, 2013
Admiral Bill Gortney, USN
Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command
1562 Mitscher Ave., Suite 250
Norfolk, VA 23551-2487
Captain Michael Nortier
USN Commanding Officer
Naval Air Station Whidbey Island
Oak Harbor, WA 98253
Ted Brown, EA-18G EIS Project Manager (Code EV21/SS);
6506 Hampton Blvd
Norfolk, VA, 23508
RE: Politics and the EIS Growler Environmental Impact Statement, Whidbey Island, WA
On December 4, 2013 at the Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement scoping meeting in Oak Harbor, Washington, Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson staged a photo op along with the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce and Oak Harbor’s mayor. During that photo op she presented a letter on her Island County letterhead to the base commander Captain Nortier.
As citizens who Commissioner Johnson was elected to represent, we wish to make a few things clear about her letter. Most importantly, her letter was not voted upon or approved by the Board of Island County Commissioners. Neither does it represent the opinion of all or most of the citizens of Whidbey Island or Island County.
Commissioner Johnson has the right to express her personal opinion; however using her title of Commissioner and doing so on Island County Board of Commissioners’ letterhead is misleading and inappropriate. It gives the false impression that her personal opinion is the opinion of the County Commission. It is not. In addition, it is telling that Johnson ignored a warning from a more-seasoned fellow commissioner who cautioned her that presenting her letter would be so misperceived.
Among other things, Commissioner Johnson’s letter urges the continued use of the Coupeville Outlying Field (“OLF”) for Growler operations. Actually the OLF is not even located in Johnson’s district but rather in District One. You should also note that the District One Commissioner has not voted for any such resolution in support of the continued use of the OLF for Growler operations.
Commissioner Johnson’s letter references the community of Oak Harbor and, “all of Whidbey Island” when she states: “We know the planes are loud, but we accept that reality…” She has no right to make that claim. Please understand that Johnson is not speaking for many citizens in Oak Harbor and across the Whidbey Island. Many citizens, including the growing number of those in the undersigned organizations, do not now and will never accept as a reality the hazardous levels of noise saturating our communities from Growler operations. Johnson simply does not speak for us on this issue.
Commissioner Johnson’s opinion is nothing more than the opinion of one person. Her personal opinion should be granted no more weight than any other individual’s when it comes to the EIS Scoping Process. Perhaps her opinion should be given less consideration since she does not live near the OLF and consequently is not impacted by Growler operations conducted there.
In taking a stand in support of expanding Growler operations at NAS Whidbey Island before all of the program’s potential impacts upon the communities’ health, safety, and quality of life have been studied or identified, Commissioner Johnson has demonstrated a lack of understanding of her own communities’ needs and of the responsibilities of her job as commissioner. Years of noise complaints from our communities related to Growler operations make it clear that the adverse impacts of Growler over-flights cannot be “mitigated” no matter what Johnson would like to believe in her letter.
Commissioner Johnson’s actions, and those of certain other politicians and business leaders, lend credence to community concerns that the Navy’s final decision on whether to continue and/or expand Growler operations on Whidbey Island will be based upon political considerations rather than upon an objective assessment of the impacts upon all of our extended communities.
We fully expect the Navy to base its final decisions on objective assessments of the known and potential impacts of proposed Growler operations. In support of that objective assessment we have submitted detailed comments and science-based studies on noise, health, and other issues relevant to the EIS process.
Thank you for this opportunity to set the record straight.
Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve
Concerned Island Citizens
Michael Monson, President
Garrett Newkirk, President
cc: Congressman Rick Larson