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Sierra Club, Port Townsend criticize Navy’s jet noise at Outlying Field
The Sierra Club and the City of Port Townsend have both released comments criticizing jet noise produced by the U.S. Navy’s EA-18G Growler.
On behalf of the Conservation Committee of the Snohomish Sierra Club, chairwoman Rebecca Wolfe issued a letter to the Navy last week outlining the “established harms” caused by jet noise. The letter was submitted as public input for the Environmental Impact Statement the Navy is currently preparing on the Growlers.
Wolfe requested that the Navy require “reliable studies” in several areas: noise, health, safety, environment, real estate values and alternatives to using the Outlying Field Coupeville.
“Numerous peer-reviewed studies document that aircraft noise can permanently damage hearing, raise blood pressure and harm livestock and wildlife, and children have a greater susceptibility to harm,” Wolfe wrote.
In addition, Wolfe said, “flights over populated areas pose potential safety problems.”
“Pilots and residents are at risk when the Navy uses this short, outdated World War II era OLF,” she wrote.
She also raised environmental concerns, stating that the OLF borders Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve which is “of environmental, cultural, and historical significance and an important wildlife and migratory bird habitat.”
“Please fully consider the real effects of OLF operations on these significant values,” Wolfe wrote.
Wolfe pointed out that OLF has not been used since May and that training has been conducted elsewhere. She urged the Navy to consider “permanent alternatives” to the use of OLF.
The Navy has announced plans to resume touch-and-gos at OLF in January.
Michael Monson, president of Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, or COER, read the Sierra Club letter to the Island County Board of Commissioners at Monday’s regular meeting. COER has been the most vocally opposed to the Navy’s use of OLF and is calling for a complete closure of the airfield.
COER sued the Navy in July, asking a judge to compel the Navy to complete an environmental impact statement, or EIS.
“More and more groups are weighing in on this,” Monson said Thursday. “We stand in solidarity with them.”
The Navy exceeded its estimated number of operations at OLF the last two years, and detractors say the new Growler is much louder than previous jets.
The City of Port Townsend has also voiced concern about jet noise and their lack of inclusion in the Navy’s EIS process, according to Port Townsend Mayor David King.
“We didn’t even know there was an EIS,” King said Thursday.
King added he was also unaware that the deadline for public input, Jan. 3, is fast approaching.
King said he was in the process of discussing the issue with the city manager and city council members to see how the city wants to respond.
“We should be included,” King said. “It gets pretty loud and it’s very much noticed.”
Several tests reportedly took place this summer over Port Townsend and Port Angeles, prompting both cities to ask the Navy for more proactive notices of the tests.
Meetings to take testimony in the preparation of the EIS happened in Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Anacortes earlier this month, but no meeting was scheduled on the North Olympic Peninsula or at any other location.
King said he plans to push for an extension of the comment period.
Mike Welding, public affairs officer for Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, said Thursday it was unlikely that the Navy would extend the initial EIS comment period. The public will have an additional opportunity to offer input when the draft EIS is released in 2015.
The public can comment online at www.whidbeyeis.com by accessing a comment form under the “comments” menu through Jan. 3.