Fire, What Fire?
From one of our members:
“We were heading to Oak Harbor around 2:00 PM, yesterday (August 16, 2021). Upon turning onto Highway 525 from Houston road we immediately noticed fire trucks coming from many directions, including two large Navy fire trucks. We also saw emergency vehicles, including ambulances and police cars. I dropped my husband off in Oak Harbor and headed back home at approximately 2:30 PM. When I passed the OLF I still saw ten large emergency fire rigs parked side by side on the road leading into the field. They were between the house and a storage building in a long line of two each side by side. Several ambulances were still there, and a number of police cars, with lights flashing. About fifteen men were standing around talking with one another. As I passed Race Road heading home I saw another large fire truck turning onto the road.”
When COER board member Michael Monson contacted the base to find out what was going on, he was told exactly – nothing! So what did happen at the OLF which required that level of emergency response and the cancellation of OLF operations for the week? Should we be worried?
This story points out one of the biggest issues with the Navy conducting operations inside of residential areas: They won’t share information with the public about events that may have dire impacts upon us. Should we be worried? Hell Yeah!
Breaking Lawsuit News
In last month’s newsletter we told you that the pleadings were closed in our NEPA lawsuit, and the case would be going to the Judge. Since then the Federal Magistrate on the case informed all of the attorneys that he wanted to schedule oral arguments. This was a bit of a surprise to us. We didn’t think that the court would hold oral arguments. Given various courts’ propensity to just let the military do whatever it wants, no questions answered, this is an encouraging sign. The oral arguments in our case are scheduled for October 26, 2021 at 9 AM. We’ll keep you posted as to public availability as we learn more.
And a Call to Action
At the end of August the Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation (OLDCC) published a notice for Community Input on Noise Mitigation. This was in response to Congress directing the Dept. of Defense to look into potential noise mitigation programs. A community survey has been set up online asking the public for ideas on how to mitigate military (especially jet) noise. The OLF and Ault Field were specifically designated in this survey, and they are seeking input from anyone who is within one mile of those facilities or (and this really expands the area in our case) who has a day-night average sound level of 65 decibels or greater. COER has put together a sample survey response (with both short-form and more comprehensive answers) which we have emailing out to our base as an Immediate Call to Action. Our basic response is that there is no way to mitigate the harms from jet noise and that in the case of the OLF and Ault Field the only way to mitigate jet noise harms is to move the Growlers to a non-populated area and to close down the OLF.
The link to the survey is: https://forms.office.com/g/3pp0UCdArk
Our sample responses can be found on the COER website at:
What Have We Been Up To?
On August 17th COER joined with the Sound Defense Alliance and held our second Central Whidbey community zoom meeting. Nearly 100 people joined the presentation. Paula Spina, for COER, presented an update on our NEPA lawsuit, our Endangered Species Act activities, and the FOIAs we have outstanding. Maryon Attwood provided an update on the SDA’s legislative activities. During the meeting the SDA “Road Map” (a detailed plan to transition from jets at NASWI to the next generation of technology) was presented to the public for the first time. A video of this community zoom meeting will soon be posted on the SDA website.
In the meantime, read this favorable news coverage about the meeting: https://www.goskagit.com/news/environment/groups-vow-to-continue-fighting-navy-over-jet-noise/article_176d14d8-1e38-5f94-bcff-82ab2d8014e2.html
Why We Fight . . .
The following letter was shared with us by one of our members:
Dear Commander Arny and staff,
This afternoon, May 27, 2021 at about 2:30 pm, your pilots caused significant harm to a class of 4th and 5th graders who were having their end-of-year class and exploration of the beaches at a very low tide. Suddenly, your fliers appeared right overhead parallel to and over Rhodena Drive; before I could get them hearing protection and into the house they were cowering from the intense noise and vibration of the Growlers. I ran to them with earplugs and headphones, but it was really too late. My ears are ringing badly and I am very concerned that their hearing may have been damaged by this thoughtless act as well. Unless you are here to experience this yourself, you have NO IDEA how painful and harmful the sound is. The people in Oak Harbor also have no realistic comprehension of how terrible this is for those living near the OLF.
I am a physician, and as such I am very aware of the real harm that can come from sound exposure at the level of the Growlers, especially for children and older people.
I have called and written many times and only once was able to talk with someone several years ago, and that was not helpful. I have offered helpful suggestions several times and would like to discuss them with someone in a position to do something about this or at least listen.
Captain Arny didn’t reply, but a staff member did:
Thank you for your email and suggestions on flight operations. I hope to provide some information in response below.
1. We have heard from a number of community residents asking for more granularity on the Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) schedule. While we understand that specific flight times might help the community better plan activities around flight operations we have looked into it and are unable to provide that kind of information due to operational security reasons. All we are able to provide at the moment are the general times of day the OLF is scheduled and we are the only Naval Air Station that publishes an FCLP schedule. While not perfect it’s the best we can offer in terms of advanced notice.
2. The approach to the OLF over the Rhodena Drive area most closely resembles the flight tracks utilized at a carrier and so provides the most realistic FCLP training for aviators to qualify before heading out to sea. Significant modifications to those approaches would diminish the training capability and hinder the qualifications necessary prior to landing aircraft at sea. For Runway 14 at the OLF there was an older flight pattern that did follow a long approach into the field due to a pheasant farm that was at the location of the current Pacific Rim Institute. However, since that game farm is no longer there and the flight characteristics of the EA-18G Growler are different than previous aircraft the flight track was adjusted during the 2018 Growler Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to better reflect the training requirements of the new aircraft. This new track is tighter than the previous one and so is why aircraft are over the Rhodena Drive area more than before.
3. Our personnel have been at various locations around the OLF, including the north approach, during flight operations as part of the Growler EIS, Air Installations Compatible Use Zones (AICUZ) study, sound monitoring, etc… and so are aware of the operations. FCLP operations also do occur at the main base at Ault Field and I live under one of those tracks so I understand the noise impact as well. Due to deployment cycles and some unforeseen operational changes we have had a higher number of FCLP sessions at both the Coupeville Outlying Landing Field (OLF) and the main base at Ault Field over the past couple weeks than is typical. Also, add in the late sunset times during this season and the warmer weather and it makes for later, and louder than normal night operations. In order to meet the demand we have been utilizing both fields for FCLP operations.
Community Planning Liaison Officer
NAS Whidbey Island
To which our member replied:
Thank you for your response. It is the first time, but I appreciate it.
Although I understand your reasoning, the harm to the families living here, old and young, cannot be understood unless you experience it yourself or bring your children here and subject them to what our children and grandchildren are hit with. I have been in many locations in Oak Harbor during flight operations; it is not even close to what we endure for hours often 3 times a day and into the night. It is bad enough for us old folks but several of the children were terrified. . . . One would think that our families should be afforded the same consideration you would give to yours. I invite you, and your children to visit us when 14 is being used. We can have coffee.
Nobody ever took him up on his offer! The correspondence ended with our member sending one last email to Mr. Tyhuis:
Just one more comment after re reading your email. For point 2 — you didn’t fly over the pheasant farm in order to not disturb . . . them???.
You can imagine how this sits with us.
Around and About
News out of the Navy indicates yet another battle brewing on the inside. For some time now there has been an internal debate on what the U.S. Navy of the future should look like. Given the advances in the use of AI and anti-ship drone and missile technology, some in the highest echelons of the Navy are arguing that reliance upon massive aircraft carriers is becoming obsolete. See for example:
The point is that air craft carriers can’t get close enough to our real world enemies to be effective without significant risk of being sunk with all hands. Now there is news that the Navy is internally debating whether pilots should continue to be trained to land on carrier decks at all. Here is a link to an article detailing how the current training jet, the T-45, is likely to be replaced with a jet (the T-XX for now) that will not perform Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLPs):
So which side will win out? Will it be those arguing for a shift to AI and modern technology? Or will they continue to send “knights in shining armor against guns and cannons?”
We still need volunteers to help with our Social Media and Fundraising efforts. But each month we will point out a different area of expertise where we need some help. COER is looking to develop a regular audio/video podcast as part of our campaign to improve communications with our members, the community at large, and especially with our Congressional delegation. Seeing and hearing our message will have a much more dramatic impact than just reading about it.
Although our board has the accumulated knowledge and information, we definitely need help with the technological side of podcasting. So, if there is anyone out there able and willing to help us get set up, please contact Paula Spina at COERpodcast@gmail.com.
Likewise, if you know of a topic you would like us to explore, if you have a poignant story or video, or if you would like to be featured on our podcast once it’s up and running, email us. We will get back with you. And, as always, thank you for your help and support.
I wondered why somebody didn’t DO something.
Then I realized: I am somebody.