Opinion

EDITORIAL | Growl your opinion at Langley jet meeting

It appears the roaring controversy over jet noise up north will touch down on South Whidbey this week.

Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, the private advocacy group lobbying to shut down U.S. Navy operations at Outlying Field Coupeville, will hold a meeting and presentation at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, at Langley United Methodist Church, 301 Anthes Ave.

This hotly contested issue has seen endless debate in Coupeville and Oak Harbor, and public opinion is largely divided into two camps: those who support the Navy’s mission at the airstrip and those who don’t.

What’s South Whidbey’s opinion on the matter? That remains something of a mystery and it shouldn’t be. No matter what side of the coin people fall on this seemingly distant but important issue, this is a meeting the public should attend and make their voices heard.

Complaints about jet noise over Central Whidbey are nothing new. Coupeville residents have literally griped about the issue for decades. What’s changed is the Navy’s transition from the EA-6B Prowler to the Growler aircraft. These new jets have the same mission — electronic attack — but critics under and around the flight path maintain they are louder than their predecessors. Coupled with a rise in operations in recent years, it’s no surprise that disgruntled residents have raised their arms in protest.

The advocacy group holding the meeting, referred to as COER [pronounced core], was formed in 2013 and they have been battling for silence ever since. While they have seen some victories, such as the Navy’s agreement to temporarily cease operations last year, the group is on the ropes in the arena of public support. Newspaper comment sections show strong and clear support for the Navy, and to date, no Whidbey Island elected body has vowed to back the group’s cause. Most recently, COER appealed to the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, but their request for support was rebuffed as well due to the group’s policy to stay out of political issues.

The group has drawn healthy and like-minded crowds at meetings in Coupeville and Port Townsend, and no doubt members are hoping for a similar turnout in Langley. South Whidbey should not disappoint, at least concerning attendance.

It’s unclear just how the closure of OLF, no matter how unlikely, would affect Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, but the base’s influence on the economy — about 10,000 jobs — cannot be ignored. This is an issue with the potential to impact everyone in Island County, and this is South Whidbey’s chance to learn more about the group’s cause and weigh in. Whether that voice will be one of support, one of disagreement or one of indifference is unknown, but whatever it is, it should not be one of silence.

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