Letter: Navy philosophy dismisses locals’ Growler concerns

Editor,

The Langley resident who dismissed the concerns of people living near the touch-and-go landing strip in Coupeville where the Growlers practice is lacking both facts and historical perspective.

She claims that the landing strip predates many of the locals, and that folks who live there now have no right to complain.

The landing strip was built in the early 1940s, whereas some of today’s farmers on Ebey’s Prairie are descended from those who homesteaded generations ago.

William Henry Sherman arrived in 1896; several of his descendants still live in the area and farm their family’s land. And, if “who got here first” is to be the determinant of whether Ebey’s Reserve should be subjected to constant and deafening noise, shouldn’t the descendants of the Lower Skagit people, who were the prairie’s first farmers, have the final say?

I agree with her that our military should have a safe place to practice maneuvers. Coupeville’s outlying field is not a safe place for Growler field carrier landing practice.

The 5,400-foot runway, built to accommodate aircraft built in the 1940s, is nearly 3,500 feet too short for Growler jet “touch-and-go” operations, which require 8,800 feet. The runway cannot be extended.

For 32 years, the runway has failed to meet Navy runway safety standards. Furthermore, to provide acceptable civilian safeguards and livability, the Navy prefers at least 2,000 of unsettled acres to conduct a training program of this kind.

Yet the Navy conducts training missions over 664 acres of populated land on Whidbey Island.

Thus, the Navy is in violation of its own safety standards, thereby putting civilians, pilots and aircraft, each one costing upwards of $85 million, at risk.

“Please excuse our noise, it’s the sound of freedom” is a Navy slogan that does little to address the legitimate, pressing concerns of islanders about the proposed increase of Growlers over Central Whidbey.

Like most slogans, it’s a simplification that disguises a multitude of wrongs — which is, I suspect, its very purpose.

Dianna MacLeod

Langley

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