Letter: COER shouldn’t be able to hijack Section 106 process

Editor,

Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, or COER, has hijacked the Section 106 process. Based on an Island County public records request, COER hijacked the historical mitigation — Section 106 — process by design and in collusion with other “consulting parties,” specifically:

• COER’s mission, “remove all Growlers from the Northwest,” has followed an unsuccessful three-prong attack — delay NEPA, litigation and political pressure.

Now, they are using the Section 106 process.

• Despite COER’s clear position, the State Historical Preservation Officer, or SHPO, designated the COER president as both a “consulting party” and “the community” including an exclusive meeting with the governor to analyze the Navy’s offer, which was rejected — confirmed in the emailed record.

• During a congressional brokered $4 million offer process, COER firmly established its “not for sale” position and both the SHPO and local politicians appeared to align with them — also confirmed in the emails.

During the public meeting held on Dec. 19, COER members conflated every known issue with Section 106. Real facts are much different:

• Per founding documents, OLF Coupeville is part of Ebey’s Reserve and should be protected based on Ebey’s federal mandate. However, “OLF” was deleted from the NPS website in 2017.

• Ebey’s Reserve was created in 1978 when Navy was flying 25,000-plus operations a year with louder aircraft. The projected noise profile is less.

• Growler is less noisy — in decibels — than the Prowler per the NEPA noise study. COER challenged this in court with their own noise study, but the judge stated that “noise studies were similar” and the case was dismissed and never appealed.

• NPS completed an EIS for Ebey’s Reserve in 2006, stating, “Navy jet noise is minor to moderate impact.”

• Activists claim “Growler health impacts,” in particular heart disease. However, Washington state heath data shows the opposite, that heart-related mortality rates improved 26 percent since Growler transition.

• Activists claim Central Whidbey real estate values dropped since the Growler. However, the opposite is true — there’s been a 52 percent increase, per Zillow.

The Navy is a leader on environmental and partnering issues, garnering top awards and spending $12 million preserving thousands of acres inside and out of the reserve. How much has COER funded? Community support for the Navy is much higher than activists. Navy Facebook “likes” — NAS Whidbey and Support OLF — are 45 times higher than COER’s page. Given the above, the ACHP should take over negotiations from the state, re-balance the membership with objective groups, exclude COER and SDA, and leverage the real above facts absent of extremist group positioning.

Scott Smith

Anacortes

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