A burnt bag of popcorn caused a minor interruption of Wednesday’s public meeting discussing Navy testing and training in the Northwest.
Roughly 30 minutes after the doors opened at 6 p.m., a fire alarm forced the crowd of roughly 40 people in attendance to evacuate the Oak Harbor High School cafeteria and wait in the parking lot while North Whidbey firefighters inspected the building.
Students overcooking popcorn were identified as the culprits, and the meeting resumed.
Wendy Campbell DeWinter, who spoke during the public comment period of the meeting, said she thought the meeting was poorly attended.
“It was very disappointing,” Campbell DeWinter said, “the fact that the public didn’t show up.”
The Navy said roughly 40 people total attended the two-hour event, a vastly lower number than at other recent EIS meetings.
The purpose of this EIS is to determine the environmental impact of the Navy’s training and testing required to remain combat-ready, according to the Navy. Some of the training takes place at the five sites examined in this EIS, which comprise primarily off-shore areas throughout Puget Sound and does not include Whidbey Island Naval Air Station’s Ault Field or Outlying Field Coupeville.
This EIS is not related to the ongoing studies for the P-8A Poseidons, which will be completed in May, or the EA-18G Growlers which just started in July.
Testing and training exercises include technology system development with missiles, radar, active and passive sonar, unmanned undersea vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles. The areas are also used to evaluate and maintain vessels, aircraft and operating systems.
A main distinction of this EIS is that it combines the EIS studies of the five testing area into one, according to Lianne Nakahara, Navy Region Northwest public affairs specialist.
Nakahara stressed that while it may appear the Navy’s testing and training area is getting bigger, they are simply consolidating multiple regional testing areas into one review process to save on cost.
Campbell DeWinter is a founding member of Concerned Island Citizens and started a new community action group, Whidbey Island Noise Coalition, or WINC, a few months ago.
Her primary concern is that the Navy is going to “destroy” the environmental beauty of the island.
“My forefathers landed at Ebey’s Landing in 1852,” DeWinter said. “What they passed onto me was that we were to protect the earth and the sea. I don’t think we are doing that.”
She said she is concerned for the health of both Puget Sound residents and the sea and wildlife that may be affected by the Navy’s operations.
The public comment portion of the EIS continues through March 25.
The public is invited to comment online or by mail at: Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest, Attention Kimberly Kler, NWTT EIS/OEIS Project Manager, 1101 Tautog Circle, Suite 203, Silverdale, WA 98315.
The document, videos and additional information about the project can be found at www.nwtteis.com