Navy moves forward without final Growler decision

The Navy is moving forward with a large construction project to accommodate new EA-18G Growler aircraft at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island even though a final decision hasn’t been made regarding the increase in the jets and training flights.

On Jan. 30, the Navy awarded a $41-million contract to RQ Construction LLC of California for a 66,000-square-foot maintenance hangar and supporting facilities at the base. The firm was also authorized to design the project.

The contract was awarded now “in order to avoid impacts that would have an unacceptable effect on the Navy’s ability to accomplish the vital electronic attack mission worldwide,” according to a Navy press release.

Meanwhile, employees are back to work at the federal agency developing comments on how increased jets, flights and noise will affect historic properties on Whidbey.

Staff at the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, or ACHP, were furloughed during the partial federal government shutdown, which interrupted the agency’s 45-day review of the impacts. That, in turn, delayed the secretary of the Navy’s final decision on the Growlers.

The ACHP’s new deadline is Feb. 19.

The ACHP reported in a press release that staff is in the process of considering all public input and will share its final comments to the Navy with the public “very soon after they are released.”

Navy officials negotiated last year with consulting parties about mitigation for Growler impacts on historic properties in Central Whidbey, but terminated consultation under the Section 106 process after an agreement could not be reached. As a result, the ACHP was charged with creating comments for Navy officials to consider.

The ACHP held a well-attended meeting in Coupeville to collect comments and also accepted written comments.

Despite the shutdown, the ACHP continued to accept and receive public comments through Jan. 3.

“Reports by some that this public comment period was extended beyond Jan. 3, 2019, are incorrect,” an ACHP press release states.

The facility will provide space for aircraft maintenance shops, aircraft equipment storage and administration. The hangar facility construction will include a steel framing system, concrete exterior walls with metal cladding, concrete/steel composite deck and metal roof. This project will provide anti-terrorism/force protection features and comply with anti-terrorism regulations and physical security in accordance with Department of Defense’s minimum anti-terrorism standards for buildings, according to an NAS Whidbey spokesman.

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