A lot has happened this past month around our area, and there are some important upcoming events as well. At COER we continue to do our best to keep everyone up to date.
NEPA Lawsuit Oral Arguments This October 26th
The State of Washington and COER’s National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) lawsuit against the US Navy over the Growler expansion EIS is scheduled for oral argument before the court magistrate on October 26th at 9:00. The public can listen in to the arguments. Here’s the notice and how to listen in:
October 26th – Oral arguments before the court Magistrate – C19-1059-RAJ-JRC, State of Washington and COER vs. US Department of the Navy:9:00 AM Court Hearing with audio access available to the public:
Oral Arguments Zoom
Call In Information: 1-669-254-5252
Meeting ID: 160 267 4142
But be forewarned, the court’s conference line can accommodate up to 500 participants. It is likely that the 500 slots are first come, first served. Members of the public should call in early and wait to be connected when the hearing starts. Consider having a “listening party” with several people sharing one line on a speaker phone.
An Opportunity to Tell Your Noise Stories
Professor Nina Berman, from Columbia University, is making a film about the Growlers and sound issues. Professor Berman has been out here before and is very familiar with the noise impacts of the Growlers. She has asked us to request that people leave a voice mail on her phone with their noise complaints whenever they call the Navy noise complaint line. This way there is some audio record of complaints in the moment, since the Navy erases voice messages after logging.
She gives us this quick introduction to herself:
I’m Nina Berman, a filmmaker and professor at Columbia University. I’ve been to Whidbey twice – first in 2016 and again in 2020 – to document the impact of the Growlers on the community in Whidbey and I also made it out to Lopez Island on the last trip. The aim is to produce a film and a podcast and I’ll be sharing the work with a cohort of science journalists at MIT where I have a small research grant.
My phone is 917-488-5552. I would welcome complaints!
Let’s try to help Professor Berman help us out as much as possible.
Growlers greet AG Bob Ferguson with a big Raspberry
A private fundraising event for Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson was held at the historic Crockett Farm on Thursday September 23, 2021. As you remember, AG Ferguson joined with COER in filing a NEPA action against the Navy’s Growler expansion Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). One of his attorneys will be arguing against the Navy when oral arguments in our case are held on October 26, 2021 (see notice above).
The weather cooperated and there was a big turnout for the event. Those in attendance listened to updates from the Attorney General on a range of important issues and were able to ask questions. The Navy decided to also show up. As Ferguson was answering one last question from the crowd, a Growler passed by directly overhead. Before he could finish his answer, with noise interruptions, four Growlers were looping directly over the crowd. We’re pretty sure that AG Ferguson is the first state or federal official who has ever personally experienced what those of us located under the jets have to live and work through. Ferguson seemed genuinely shocked by what he was experiencing. He had joined our fight without ever having experienced Growler noise first hand; afterwards we’re pretty sure he has a new understanding of why we fight!
If we could only get some of our other elected leaders to come out and hear this insanity for themselves!
NWTT EIS Decision Rendered
The US Navy has been going through an EIS process for the Northwest Testing and Training Area which stretches from California to Alaska and incorporates much of our region. This EIS has been ongoing for some time. COER has consistently argued that under the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) the Navy should not have segregated the Growler expansion EIS and that it should have been included in this larger study. Not surprisingly, the Navy has never wanted to do that.
The NWTT EIS final decision is now out. This report comes from the National Parks Conservation Association, one of our associated conservation groups fighting to defend our region:
Olympic Sound Defenders,
Today the Navy issued their record of decision (announcement below) a year after the associated supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) was completed for their operations in their expansive Northwest Training and Testing Range. It appears to be full speed ahead for the Navy, but with an interesting and modest tweak to avoid some flights over Olympic National Park.
The NWTTR is a huge body of offshore water from northern California up through Washington’s coast and even a section in Alaska. It’s mostly ocean, but it also includes airspace over the west side of the Olympic Peninsula.
- Avoiding Olympic NP by transit flights between the Whidbey Island air base and the training airspace by flying north of the park down the Strait of Juan de Fuca. If this is the case, this represents an improvement over past conditions where the Navy jets flew out and back over most of the park. However, we’d like to see the maps and learn more about whether this will be a mandatory route or more optional. Interestingly, the Navy took pains to say this route change was NOT part of their SEIS decision process – not sure what that’s about yet.
- Dismissal of research done on military jet frequency and noise levels on several grounds – nothing new here, what about commercial air lines, sometimes the rain is louder, it’s loud but it doesn’t last very long, few people are there to hear it.
- Three pages of rebuttals to concerns raised by NPCA through the Earthrise Law Center.
We’ll have to carefully review this document and see what more information we can get on routes, impacts and noise. It is notable that the Navy had to take a year to reassess their work after their final SEIS was issued in 2020, but mostly it appears to be shoring up their defenses more than changing their operations. The one improvement may be rerouting some return flights back to the base, but 27% of Olympic NP remains within their jet training area and flight numbers are still set to increase. Meanwhile, impacts around Whidbey Island and the greater Puget Sound area remain.
I would say the Navy may be hearing our concerns, but not yet listening to most of them.
Message to elected officials: there is a still a Navy jet noise problem over the Olympics and Puget Sound.
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As we have been saying, the only way to mitigate Growler jet noise is to move the Growlers to locations where they will not impact civilians or damage fragile environments. Move the Growlers now!
Health Corner: Jet Noise and Infants
If you or someone you know lives under the Growler carrier landing practice area at OLF or Ault Field and is pregnant or has an infant or toddler, you need to know that the child is at risk. Please check out “Noise: A Hazard for the Fetus and Newborn” at:
Noise has an impact on fetal development including damage to important parts of the inner ear (the cochlea), as well as possible congenital abnormalities and lower birth weight. These conditions can lead to mental and emotional issues later at school age.
Birth weights were significantly lower for infants born in the hospital to women aged 20 to 34 years who were living in areas where the “Day Night Level” (DNL) of aircraft noise exceeded 60 to 65 decibels, such as at Ault Field and the OLF.
Hypoxemia (an abnormally low level of oxygen in the blood) occurred in newborn infants exposed to sudden loud noise (approximately 80 decibels).
Yet another study found that exposure to loud noise significantly altered infants’ behavioral and physiological responses. This is consistent with local anecdotal accounts from pregnant mothers living under the OLF racetrack, who noted heightened fetal activity when the jets were flying. Others reported hyperactivity of their toddlers (less than age 2), which returned to normal activity when the jets stopped. COER is aware of several mothers who moved to escape the impacts of Growler noise on their children and unborn.
The Navy misleadingly claims that none of these health impacts on fetuses and infants are “proven.” Yet in the field of biological science the body of evidence has been steadily developed to the point where these jet noise health impacts cannot be reasonably denied. When it comes to civilian exposure, the Navy has stuck its head where the “science doesn’t shine” and it is up to us to protect our children from their jet noise.
For their own personnel, their approach (and presumably the science) is dramatically different! The following is a Navy directive regarding noise exposure for pregnant service members:
NOISE (From Medical Support to Women in Military Environments)
Pregnant women must wear hearing protection when exposed to ambient noise levels above 84dBA, including infrequent impact noise.
Brief exposure (5 minutes per hour or less) of hearing-protected pregnant women to ambient noise above 84dBA in order to transit high noise areas is probably safe. Prolonged exposure to this level of noise is not recommended.
Pregnant women should avoid any exposure to noise greater than 104dBA (corresponding to the need for double hearing protection), unless absolutely essential for quickly moving through a high noise area. The abdominal wall muffles (attenuates) the noise only somewhat and these very noisy areas may pose significant problems for the developing fetus.
The double-standard is breathtaking: civilian beware!
And it’s not too late to take the Survey
Reminder: 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 emailed 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: https://citizensofebeysreserve.com/2021/09/05/coer-immediate-call-to-action/