Publisher’s Column: Moving under Growler flight path is a choice

Growing up in Anacortes in the 1970s and 80s, the rumble of A-6E Intruders and EA-6Bs flying overhead was familiar and normal. I don’t recall ever being awakened or disturbed by the roar of the jets. I don’t remember any discussion around the dinner table about the noise. My parents didn’t seem bothered, nor did my brothers and sisters.

During that same time period, my grandparents lived off of Goldie Road in Oak Harbor, directly under the flight path. We’d pass the “Sound of Freedom” sign on our way to their house. Given the proximity to Ault Field, the roar of jet engines was much louder there. You could wave to the fliers as they passed overhead.

Again, my grandparents didn’t complain. They conscientiously made the decision to live under the jet path. The tradeoff to the noise was relatively cheap acreage.

It was after I was working as a reporter for the Whidbey News-Times during the late 1980s and ’90s that I first heard that there were complaints on the island about jet noise.

The newspaper covered both sides of the jet noise issue. The opposing factions were just as polarized then as they are today. Both sides were given a voice in the debate, and it was up to readers to make up their own minds.

It’s the same way we cover the noise issue today.

Back in the 1990s, Admiral’s Cove was at the epicenter of a many of the noise complaints. There weren’t nearly as many homes there at the time. The landing practices at Outlying Field Coupeville became the focus for many who lived there. Given the complaints and concerns, I presumed construction in Admiral’s Cove would slow considerably, if not grind to a halt.

I was wrong.

When I moved back to Whidbey in 2012, after 13 years away, it was like deja vu to learn that jet noise was still in the newspaper’s headlines. Instead of the Intruders and Prowlers, though, it was the EA-18G Growlers overhead.

Surprisingly, Admiral’s Cove had grown. There were new homes, new faces.

When in the position of homebuyer a little more than a year ago, I put myself in the shoes of others who might be moving to Whidbey Island. I pondered very briefly looking at property in Admiral’s Cove. After all, some of the views are spectacular, and the cost relatively low compared to other view property on the island.

However, I made the choice not to live under the flight path for OLF Coupeville. History and experience told me that it would be louder than I’d like, and I certainly couldn’t expect the Navy to do anything different than it has done for decades just because I had bought a home there.

Seeing residents who are part of a class action suit against the Navy say on regional TV news Wednesday that they simply wanted “peace,” and that their property values were diminished by the jet noise, I wondered, did they question why their view property seemed so reasonably priced when they bought it? Did it occur to them to question the document at closing alerting them that there was an airfield nearby? I signed the same disclosure.

Although I have empathy for many who find themselves suddenly impacted by the increased levels of jet noise, the class action lawsuit is, at best, a misguided attempt to compensate for a purchasing decision that was, in many cases, easily avoided.

Keven R. Graves is executive editor and publisher of the Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record. His direct email is kgraves@whidbeynewsgroup.com

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