When guests visit me on Whidbey, one of the first places I take them is Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve. I delight in their pleasure as we travel small roads past cultivated fields, well-kept farmhouses, grand old barns.
When we reach the water’s edge, some guests choose to hike the high bluff trail; others, less ambitious, prefer a stroll on the beach. No matter which route my guests take, they all pause frequently to take in the expanse of sea and sky and the mountains in the distance.
The lapping of waves, the call of birds, the wind in the trees are all part of the experience.
But there’s a threat on the horizon—literally.
As most islanders know by now, the Department of Defense (DoD) is proceeding with its wrongheaded plan to quadruple Growler jet flights over Ebey’s Reserve.
But there’s something they’ve overlooked along the way: the law—in not one, but two, ways.
First, the integrity of the soundscape has not been considered.
Ebey’s is managed in part by the National Park Service.
The parks service is charged with preserving the natural soundscape of our nation’s parks, restoring degraded soundscapes to their natural condition whenever possible, and protecting natural soundscapes from degradation due to human-caused noise.
An increase of Growler flights from the military — and the noise that comes with it — conflicts with the mission of these organizations.
Second, Section 106 of the National Historical Preservation Act requires the DoD to consult with local authorities concerning adverse effects on historic properties such as Ebey’s Reserve.
According to the act, those effects must be avoided, minimized or mitigated.
But the DoD has failed to consult with the managers and stakeholders of Ebey’s, instead issuing a “memorandum of agreement” that none of the partners have agreed to.
And now, as a shortcut, the Navy’s assistant secretary is pressuring Gov. Inslee to sign off on that “agreement.”
The Navy’s increase of deafening flights over our nation’s first historic reserve is incompatible with the purpose for which it was, and is, intended.
On top of that, the Navy has mishandled the process and now hopes to do an end run around it.
Let’s make sure our good, green governor knows we won’t allow it.
The next time I take guests to Ebey’s, I want them to hear waves lapping, birds calling and the wind moving through the trees. I want them to see cultivated fields, farm houses and historic barns.
I want Ebey’s to stay just the way it is, and I’ll do all I can to make it so.
I hope you will, too.