Letter: Navy has burden of studying effect on environment


I am responding to Jennifer Meyer’s most recent letter opinionating on the Growler litigation. She argues as follows:

—The Growler noise is much worse in Oak Harbor, where the teachers actually complain about it, compared to Coupeville, where no teacher’s complain, therefore even more than 80% of the Growler flights should be shifted away from Oak Harbor to Coupeville.

—The Navy should not have not lost the Growler litigation on the education issue since all current public studies lack consistency in their results, well, except they seem to agree that excess noise does seem to impair speech development in early childhood education, but other than that they are inconsistent. The Navy did not prepare any studies of their own, since this is not specifically mentioned in the National Environmental Policy Act.

—The author formerly taught adults under the approach path to Lindbergh Field in San Diego, and when a plane landed, everyone had to stop talking, which was an “interruption” and “annoyance” and “added to the amount of time it took to convey the same information.” Oak Harbor schools similarly directly under the flightpath at Whidbey NAS. Conversely, the author formerly lived close to the Coupeville Schools and it was easier for her to hear the announcer for Friday night football games than the Growlers.

The National Environmental Policy Act requires any federal agency that wishes to take a proposed action which may impact the environment to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.

The NEPA requires such statement include, among other things a description and assessment of the impact, ways to mitigate the impact and alternatives to the action that may eliminate or reduce the impact.

The recent federal court ruling specifically took the Navy to task for, among other things “failing to quantify the impact of increased operations on classroom learning.” In other words, citing inconsistent current public studies then throwing up your hands because you cannot quantify the impact on learning won’t cut it if you are a federal agency charged with complying with NEPA. While NEPA does not specifically state original reports are required, you are on notice that you have the burden of quantifying the impacts, so if the current studies do not give you your answer, it behooves you to do your own research and prepare a report. Otherwise you risk being taken to task by a federal judge.

Regardless, the time for putting the Navy’s best case forward was before the court issued its ruling. The Navy has two choices: either come to some agreed to resolution with the state and COER, or have the judge decide on a remedy. Given the tenor of the recent ruling, however, I would think this latter path is fraught with uncertainty from the Navy’s standpoint.

Steve Bezaire