Coupeville, WA – Members of the Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve (COER) announced today that the Navy has delayed the formation of a new expeditionary squadron of Growlers while the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is completed on the Growlers based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island. According to Seapower Magazine, “A new date has not been set and will not be set until after the completion of the environmental impact study,” said CDR Jeannie Groeneveld, Public Affairs Officer for Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet.
In reaction to this announcement from the Pacific Fleet Commanders, Michael Monson, president of COER, is calling for the Navy to delay the use of the Coupeville Outlying Field (OLF) for Field Carrier Landing Practices (FCLPs), as they did last year for 11 months. “Since the Navy has announced that it is delaying the formation of a new Growler squadron until the EIS is completed, COER believes it is reasonable to request a delay of training flights at OLF until the EIS is completed.
Additionally, COER believes the cessation of training flights at the OLF makes sense in light of the Navy’s announced intention to amend the Growler EIS, adding 22 more Growlers as a new alternative. “These are major changes in excess of the original EIS that citizens were allowed to comment on about transitioning from Prowlers to the Growlers,” said Monson. From recent Freedom of Information requests that COER has received, it also seems likely that the Navy is thinking about abandoning its land‐based expeditionary squadrons and making all Growlers carrier‐based. “This would have a huge impact on the number of FCLP’s done on Whidbey Island and in the airspace of Northern Puget Sound making life here, from Oak Harbor to Langley, from Port Townsend to Lopez and Friday Harbor, and over La Conner and many towns in Skagit County, very different,” stated Monson.
When most Environmental Impact Studies are conducted, no harm is allowed while the study is conducted. The Navy followed this established practice when it flew elsewhere and did not use OLF for 11 months in 2013. Now, the Navy has announced it is amending the Growler EIS, pushing the draft deadline of the Growler EIS out into 2016 or 2017. On the heels of this announcement, the Navy has also resumed a pace of training flights not seen since 2012, when COER filed a complaint in federal court to make the Navy initiate an EIS on the transition from Prowlers to Growlers at OLF, challenging the flawed internal Naval Environmental Assessment (EA).
Maryon Attwood, a small business owner, said she found the Navy’s ‘Good Neighbor’ policy highly questionable as the increased flights are occurring in the same month when Whidbey Island has the most visitors. “Last Friday,” she explained, “farmers could not bring in their crops for the Saturday Market, artists could not set up their tents for a long‐planned Studio Tour, and wedding planners had to delay their preparations. All of these activities were outdoors and had to be put on hold for the Navy jets. Sales are lost as potential customers arrive and then flee when the jets fly over. The arts industry here brings $13 million dollars to Island County and over 90% of our dollars stay right here,” concluded Attwood.
Northern Puget Sound and places like Coupeville rely on tourism dollars for an active and growing local economy. There are 68 state parks and 8 national parks, wildlife refuges, forests and public lands that border Puget Sound. These assets help drive approximately $9.5 billion in travel spending, including 88,000 tourist‐related jobs that bring $3 billion in income to the region, according to Island County tourism sources
COER is calling for the Navy to delay the use of the OLF as they did in 2013 for 11 months. While the Navy delays the formation of the new squadron, COER encourages the Navy to reinstate their protocol of flying elsewhere until such time as the Growler EIS is completed.
For COER’s Hot Line number and more information about the Growler’s regional impact, refer to their website at http://citizensofebeysreserve.com.
Post Office Box 202, Coupeville WA 98239
Email – email@example.com