Letter: People need to accept that Navy lost noise lawsuit


I am writing this in response to Terry Sparks’ recent column concerning the Growler noise issue. As best I can make out, his criticism of those who would object to the Navy’s plans to increase Growler flights 4 fold (in 2018 the Navy flew 6,200 flights, their proposal is to increase this number to 24,000) is as follows:

The litigation brought by COER and the attorney general relied on three faulty reports; the “approximately 200” people in COER are upset because the 1.34 million people in the Defense Department “are not giving their small group the attention it wants:; those same people are wealthy and they “bought land in the wrong place and are trying to increase their property values.”

Since the author is an engineer, he feels compelled to suggest a solution: For the Department of Defense to use eminent domain to purchase the affected properties, since they exist in a “high noise area” and the purchase price would, therefore, be minimal.

I am amazed that those who continue to defend the Navy’s planned increase in Growler flights either are not aware of or are unwilling to accept the recent federal court ruling criticizing the Navy’s decision to increase Growler flights. In the magistrate’s report in which a federal judge based his ruling, he criticized the Navy for “selecting methods of evaluating data that supported its goal of brining in more Growlers to NAS Whidbey.” He further stated: “The Navy did this at the expense of the public and the environment, turning a blind eye to data that would not support this intended result.” He specifically found the Navy violated the National Environmental Policy Act by:

Failing to disclose the basis for greenhouse gas emission calculations; failing to quantify the impact of increased operations on classroom learning; failing to take a hard look at species specific impacts on birds; and failing to give detailed consideration to the idea of moving some operations to the base in El Centro, California.

If I wanted to defend the Navy’s position, the last thing I would attempt to do is compare the relative merits of COER’s vs. the Navy’s reports. I also would not wish to appear a sore loser by making ad hominem attacks on the people in COER, who, for now, are the prevailing party.

Lastly, I question his approach of using eminent domain to purchase the affected properties, since the properties exist in “high noise areas” and “the cost should be minimal to the government for those properties.” If the increased Growler flights in fact reduced the properties’ value, this diminution by itself would amount to a governmental “taking” requiring compensation. In other words, the Navy cannot trash the properties then attempt to buy them at discount.

This litigation is not over, but the Navy has received a very loud shot across its bow. Generally, people in such positions are advised to consider compromises since in this country litigants do not get to dictate results, even very powerful litigants such as the U.S. Navy. And this is how, again in this county, 200 can equal 1.34 million.

Steve Bezaire