Navy wants comments on Growler impact to reserve

The Navy is asking for public comment on a draft “memorandum of agreement” regarding EA-18G Growler aircraft and historic properties on Whidbey Island even though there is no agreement.

The document is required under section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

The law requires federal agencies to consider the effects a project may have on historic properties and to take action to either avoid or mitigate impacts.

This process will not affect the Navy’s plans to bring as many as 32 new Growlers to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island or carry out aircraft carrier landing practice at Outlying Field Coupeville. The practice field is located on the edge of the 18,000-acre Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.

Under the Navy’s preferred alternative identified in the final Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, the number of Growler operations at OLF Whidbey will increase from 6,510 to 24,100 a year.

The establishment of the Reserve was meant to preserve the historical and agricultural traditions of the bucolic, working landscape.

Allyson Brooks, the state historic preservation officer, explained that the Growlers will essentially degrade the quality of life and people’s experience in the historic district. As a result, the Navy is obligated to mitigate the impact by helping to enhance or otherwise “assist” the historic landscape, Brooks said.

The Navy has been consulting with Brooks’ office, the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, government officials on Whidbey and other “interested parties,” the Navy said. The consulting parties have not agreed with the current draft and negotiations continue.

Fran Einterz, a member of the Trust Board for the reserve, said the Navy’s offer totaling $150,000 to mitigate the environmental degradation of the reserve is “an unintended slap in our local face.” He points out that the area was designated by Congress to be a national historical treasure.

“As such it requires thought and careful planning that has yet to occur as part of the EIS process, to preserve and protect our rural community and its historic district,” he said, saying he’s speaking for himself.

Brooks pointed out that the Navy offers to spend millions when mitigation involves natural resources.

The public can read the draft at www.cnic.navy.mil/regions/cnrnw/installations/nas_whidbey_island/om/environmental_support/section-106-national-historic-preservation-act.html.

Comments will be accepted until the National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 process is complete but are preferred before Nov. 2, the Navy said. Comments may be submitted in writing to Commanding Officer, NAS Whidbey Island, Attn: NASWI CR PM, 3730 North Charles Porter Ave, Oak Harbor, WA 98278-5000, or sent via email to NAVFACNWCR@navy.mil To ensure that your comment is routed properly, please include “Growler 106 MOA Comment” in the subject line.

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