Republishing this, as it has relevancy today. Originally published in January of 2014.
I have been a resident and tax payer of Port Townsend/Jefferson County since 1999. I am opposing the expansion of the Whidbey Island training base for the Growlers. I am not against training our Naval pilots. The issue is more about the appropriate use and location of a Navy jet training facility. I live near Jefferson County Fairgrounds. I am approx. 15 miles south-southwest of Ault field. There are many nights when the Growlers are flying, that I am woke up after midnight, sometimes as late as 1AM by their engine noise. This is not the normal sound of a well silenced passenger jet approaching SeaTac. It is enormously loud. If you would have asked me if I ever would voluntarily live under a Navy flight training range, the answer would be no. Did I ever imagine that by living 15 miles away from any airport that I would be woken up in the middle of the night by roaring jets? Not likely. Would you? 15 Miles is the distance from Boeing Field to Shoreline. Or Seatac to Tacoma. We would not ever allow drag racing to take place within Port Townsend after 10PM. We shut the County Fair down at 10 to keep the noise down. Can you imagine the outcry if we were going to allow four wheel drive mud racing at 1AM? There are thousands of people in eastern Jefferson County that need to get up in the morning and go to work. The least we can expect is not to be subjected to high speed jet noise in the middle of the night.
Since 2001 there has been a 300% increase in training flyovers. The Navy also plans to bring 737s to the base this year! People on Whidbey Island have measured noise levels inside their homes at 94 decibels. 94 decibels can damage hearing. Some comparisons: A Boeing 737 or DC-9 aircraft at one nautical mile (6080 ft) before landing (97 dB); power mower (96 dB); motorcycle at 25 ft (90 dB). Newspaper press (97 dB).
The Navy planes are, obviously, not well muffled, if at all. I don’t believe they could be muffled. I would assume because they need to be highest performance. That’s understood. However, given the times of day that they are used, it is totally inappropriate to fly these planes over the populated areas of Admiralty Inlet.
There was a time, many decades ago, when the Admiralty Inlet area was sparsely populated. Those days are long over. The time has come to say no, politely, to the Navy, and ask that it reassign these wings to one of the other 10 training sites around the country, many of which are likely to more appropriately locate the aircraft to a less populated area, such as Tinker AFB, in OK. Or find a new home in Eastern Washington. It’s only a hop and a jump from here to there in a plane traveling over 300 miles an hour. Oak Harbor will find another way to make money without the Navy airbase, as have all the areas around it who don’t have a base next door.
I am concerned at the unlimited expansion of military training that is happening here in North Puget Sound. We are giving away to the US military a lot for our privacy and quiet. We have witnessed in the last 10 years alone expanded activity and security at Indian Island, with increased random stops of boaters out for an afternoon. We also have been designated a Navy training airspace area over Admiralty Inlet and Port Townsend Bay that allows helicopter overflight for training at low altitudes without warning, along with a doubling of capacity at Bangor on Hood Canal, barely regulated sonar testing in an area that has Orcas and other whales, increased closings of the Hood Canal Bridge at all hours for military boat traffic, and now expansion of high speed jets on Whidbey Island. Now there is the proposal floated to do low level electromagnetic training on the west end of the Peninsula, another idea floated with very little initial press. It was only when some locals in Forks saw a flyer hanging in the local shop, and posted on a blog were the public brought to it’s attention. When added together, these create a picture that we are giving away our peace and quiet, to become surrounded by high security operations that are outside our ability to control, let alone expect a good night’s sleep. It’s time to say no to this. There are other options for the Navy. There are not for us. This is our home. We pay our taxes to create and maintain these bases. We should have some say where to locate them.
The Navy has extended the scoping period for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for EA-18G Growler airfield operations at NAS Whidbey Island’s Ault Field and Outlying Landing Field (OLF) Coupeville, including the proposed introduction of two additional expeditionary Electronic Attack (VAQ) squadrons and the addition of aircraft to the Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS). There will be a public meeting, only done because of continued pressure on the Navy, on Thursday December 4th in Port Townsend. (other sites on Whidbey as well). The closing day to get letters like this to the Navy January 9th.
Send letters to EA-18G EIS Project Manager (Code EV21/SS); Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Atlantic, 6506 Hampton Blvd, Norfolk, VA 23508. Comments may also be submitted to the project website at whidbeyeis.com. You can also contact Representatives Kevin Van De Wege, Steve Tharinger, and State Senator James Hargrove, in addition to Representative Derek Kilmer and State Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.