The full name of our group is: Citizens of the Ebey’s Reserve for a Safe, Healthy, and Peaceful Environment.
Citizens of the Ebey’s Reserve, or COER, is a non-profit group on Whidbey Island, WA. We are not affiliated with any political party, religious group, commercial entity, or other social conformity, except universal respect. It is our goal to relocate Growler jet flight carrier landing practice operations to an environmentally suitable, regionally strategic, and welcoming location with sufficient training infrastructure. Our mission is to protect the health and welfare of the inhabitants of the region, including the marine, migratory and endangered species, and to preserve Whidbey Island and the historic northwest communities being threatened by military jet training flights.
COER is a founding member of the Sound Defense Alliance (SDA). Sound Defense Alliance is a coalition of groups and individuals that have come together to restore the balance between community priorities and military convenience.
Here’s what we’ve been doing to protect our community: “What Has COER Done For You?”
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
Q: It can’t be all that loud, can it? It’s not too bad in other places.
A: The OLF is different from just a fly-over zone; the jets come in very low in order to perform Touch and Go trainings. They briefly touch the landing strip, and then take off again. The noise levels on the ground for low-altitude are higher than regular fly-over zones to begin with, but when the jet engines are aimed toward the ground in order to perform slow take-off maneuvers, the sound is blasted straight downward instead of directed far over our heads.
It’s really something one has to experience to know how loud it really is, and other airports don’t compare.
Q: Why is it a problem now, when the OLF has been there since WWII?
A: When the OLF was built, there were fewer residences and businesses in the area, lower population, no recognition that we needed to protect the historical buildings and properties of Central Whidbey, far fewer planes, far fewer flights, and far lower noise levels.
Over time, the use of the OLF has increased, and the planes have changed to become faster and louder while the population of the area has grown and edged up around the crash zones and the economy became dependent upon tourism. It was inevitable that this question of sustained suitability would be raised.
It is quite normal for military facilities to be used for a period of time, and then be decommissioned once they no longer are suitable due to a changing world. There is nothing shocking or even unexpected about the idea that this WWII OLF simply isn’t the right place for this kind of activity any longer.
If we expected to endlessly keep all outdated military facilities in operation just for the sake of continuity, we’d still be running drills at Fort Casey.
Q: Aren’t you trying to get the Crash Zones eliminated or unregulated so people can build dangerously close to the OLF?
A: Our group’s goals do not involve trying to dismantle important safety measures. The fact that there are structures ranging from homes to businesses close to the OLF and arguably in the realistic crash zone is not a matter of politics or opinion; it is a fact. We are not arguing about how it occurred or assigning blame. We are only concerned that the situation exists and it is one more reason why the current scenario is not working. We want our pilots and our citizens to be safe, and right now they are not.
Q: The Navy says the sound isn’t at damaging levels. Why do you say it is?
A: The Navy describes noise exposure using the Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL). The DNL metric expands daily noise events into a 24-hour average for an entire year. DNLs do not tell us what the loudest event is in a 24 hour period, nor how many noise events there may be in a 24 hour period. Our ears, unfortunately, do not average noise events or duration. So yes; averaging the noise level of a deafening explosion over 24 hours, and then again for an entire year, would seem to indicate that the explosion was really quiet… statistically.
Q: Doesn’t being against the Coupeville OLF mean you aren’t patriotic, and you are anti-Navy?
A: Firstly, we are a group of neighbors who all have different beliefs, politics, and reasons for doing what we do, so it’s really quite difficult to say “we” are this or that. Some of us even have aviation and Navy backgrounds.
Secondly, we do agree that we don’t want the jets to be maneuvering night and day over the Ebey’s Historical Reserve, which is a place where several thousand people live, a major source of tourism for Whidbey Island, and a National Park created to help protect its rural and historical character. The Navy itself knows the OLF does not fulfill its own requirements for usage. There have got to be better locations than this.
In no way does that make our group inherently anti-Navy, military, or American. It’s quite patriotic and the American way to ‘rub along’ in order to deal with conflicts of growth and change. We debate, argue, present facts and opinions, petition, and otherwise make our voices heard until a solution can be found so we can move on into the future. That’s always how it’s been done, and the primary reason why free speech is protected in this country.
The direction America was going would be much more troubling if people were too afraid to stand up for their needs and concerns, and even worse if our country was controlled by the military instead of the voters.
Q: But isn’t the OLF older than Ebey’s Reserve, and all of these new developments? Doesn’t it get priority?
A. The signature houses and historical properties of the Reserve are older than the OLF. If seniority were really the point, then their preservation would override the OLF with or without recognition of the National Park Status, but this really isn’t about some “first come first served” game or how things used to work forty years ago. This issue is about considering what the facts and contexts are today, what the problems are right now in the real world with real people, and trying to find a solution.
Q: But you signed a paper saying you knew that you would be living under a flight zone. You should have known what it meant.
A: In the last two years, flight rates have increased over 300%. The new planes are louder. More squadrons are being relocated to Whidbey. Even just a little over a year ago, there was no way we could know that it would escalate to this point and beyond, so it would have been impossible to say we signed up for THIS. Also, as it turns out, many homebuyers were not told about the issue, and this has been the source of lawsuits.
Q: Won’t closing the OLF make the Navy base in Oak Harbor go away?
A: The OLF is not the only runway being used by NAS Whidbey – it’s just currently the most convenient, and arguably, only marginally so. An entire year passed not so long ago when all training was conducted at Ault field and other bases – and the Growler world did not grind to a halt. OLF is not a requirement for NASWI’s existence.
Q: Why don’t you just move?
A: Firstly, it may not be possible to sell a house that is difficult to live in. Homeowners have found themselves financially trapped as noise levels and flight tempos have increased. Secondly, the answer to a problem is not always to run away and only worry about one’s own skin.
The greater issues of protecting a historic and irreplaceable community and environment are worth a fight. Finally, the question arises: should the military be able to just go where it wants, and do what it wants, no matter the cost to civilians? We would argue that this is a bad practice to support.
Q: Isn’t trying to get the Navy to change something as likely as turning a battleship with a tugboat?
A: Yes, but tugboats do that job when they have to. So can we. Other, even smaller communities, have succeeded in this same issue once they banded together and took a stand.
Q: Aren’t you all a bunch of left-wing socialists/militia anti-regulation/treehugger hippies?
A: We consist of all kinds of people with different political leanings, coming together as neighbors rather than party affiliates; that’s why this website is not dedicated to any particular political party, and any attempts to make us out to be partisan puppets is entirely missing the point.
The issues of personal health, livelihood, local economy, and ability to enjoy our land and lives in peace seems to cover a lot of ground from left to right. We are aware that our conservative supporters feel a lot of pressure not to speak up on issues like this, and so it is true that many of our more visible members are left leaning.
It can be interesting though, to be accused simultaneously of being far right-wing libertarian types who just want unregulated use of our private property, to socialists because… well, we’re not sure how they came up with that one, since we’re pretty strongly trying to support private enterprise.
The reality is much simpler. We are a cross-section of the citizens of Central Whidbey Island, and while we don’t always agree on everything, we are getting past all that in order to deal with a problem that affects us all.