EIS scoping comments from an MD

Subject: EIS Growler scoping meeting

The following letter was submitted at the EIS Growler Scoping Meeting. After attending the meeting and listening to the Navy representatives, I would like to add an addendum to the letter.
From a military standpoint, the EA18 Growler is a superb aircraft. It can keep pace with other attack aircraft. Two crew members rather than four crew members are required and it can literally ‘bounce’ off the carrier deck if the tail-hook fails to engage. The Navy also hinted at the new jets being quieter than the old EA6B, which in level flight, is probably true. However, when the landing gear and flaps are down in the touch-and-go pattern, the Growler uses its’ considerably more powerful engines to avoid a stall. The physics are quite simple . . . twice the horsepower with a wing design having much less lift than the EA6B means a lot more thrust is being used to keep the Growlers airborne in Field Carrier Landing Practice. More thrust equals more noise. The Navy claims the Growler’s SEL (sound exposure level) in the OLF pattern is 116dB at 600 ft elevation. Measurements taken on May 7, 2013 by JGL Acoustics, one mile south of the OLF in a densely populated residential area recorded 35 jet fly overs in a 39 minute session with an average SEL of 128.5dB. Since each 10db increase means an actual doubling of the perceived loudness, the actual impact on the local community is more than twice what the Navy is claiming and 16 times as loud as the 85db threshold for hearing loss. We need to know the source of the Navy’s erroneous 116dB claim for the EA18 Growler at OLF. Oh yes, that ‘bounce’ is the low frequency boom from the OLF that rattles windows 5 miles away.
Also found on page 10 of the Navy scoping pamphlet, under ‘aircraft noise’, the Navy asserts “Day-Night Average Sound level (DNL) is the federal standard for determining community noise impacts.” DNL actually refers to airports which operate on a seven days a week basis and assesses a 10dB penalty for night flying. The Navy must only use DNL for the days they do FCLP and not average in any of our quiet days. The average session SEL and total session minutes are more reflective of the noise impact of unmuffled military aircraft and must be included in the EIS.
The bottom line on all of this is: In May 2013 we experienced and recorded what heavy EA18 Growler use of the OLF for FLCP means. It is not acceptable in Coupeville nor is it tolerable in Oak Harbor. The characteristics of that jets’ FLCP noise impacts are not going to miraculously go away. Unlike the densely populated east coast, we have desert scablands and coulees just east of the mountains in which the FCLP training could be done with a permanent staffed training facility isolated from local populations. Keep the rest of the training at NASWI. No money? Sell the OLF.

Sincerely, Stephen L. Swanson MD


The Navy provided a booth at the EIS scoping meeting for a discussion of noise impacts. I questioned their representative: “How did the Navy arrive at the reading of 116dB at 600ft altitude for the EA18G Growler?” His response: “It was measured with a single jet in the OLF pattern.” I then asked a followup question: “Why then are the Libby study’s readings in Admirals Cove more than a mile from OLF getting peak readings of 137 and average SEL readings of 128.5?” He stated: “The jets have descended to about 300 ft over Admirals Cove on their approach to OLF.” I noted that ‘jet’ had changed to ‘jets’ plural. Nothing was said about the noise increase from having the engine exhaust pointing directly at the Cove.
It is obvious that the Navy is cherry-picking the noise data for a single Growler at the pattern’s peak elevation.
It is also obvious that if the Navy plans to train a squadron of 4 to 5 growlers simultaneously, then the EIS noise impact study must reflect the increased number of jets in the pattern. There also must be measurements of sound every 1/2 mile along each of the flight paths to accurately document the squadron’s noise impact at ground level. 85dB, 75dB, and 65dB boundaries need to be mapped out so we can document the impact of the Growlers on our community.
The Navy plans to resume OLF training in January 2014 before the EIS is complete. Island County needs to temporarily reduce our property tax assessments to reflect the 25% drop in Central Whidbey real estate values since 2008. The Navy should be required to reimburse the lost tax revenue or maybe the increase in Oak Harbor business will make up the difference. The increased Navy presence is not a win-win situation. Central Whidbey is on the distinct loosing end of this.

Stephen L. Swanson MD

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