153 Growlers? Move OLF!

153 Growlers? Move OLF!

The Navy has recently announced that 153 Growler jets have already been funded, scheduled to arrive at the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island by 2017.  Congressman Larsen said that 82 Growlers currently fly at NASWI with 12 more used as backup. That means 50% more Growler pilots will require carrier landing practice because they are all carrier based. The decisions regarding Growler funding and the arrival dates were made in advance of study results from the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process currently underway.  This is another reason why no one expects the Navy to find any harmful impact from 153 Growler jets practicing 250 feet above civilian homes – despite the absurdity of the obvious.

The OLF must be moved!

Even at the initial smaller numbers when they first arrived, Growlers and the OLF were not a match – for pilot or civilian safety, for closely simulated carrier practice, or for national security.   And at these obscene numbers, the Navy can no longer claim that the outdated OLF Coupeville, situated less than a mile from civilian neighborhoods, is safe.

The Navy advertises that the OLF is the only location for effective pilot training.  Yet, prescribed training has already been limited, adapted, and compromised.  It clearly cannot meet “any defense need” required of an outlying field.  So, funding must be found to move the OLF.  It must be made a priority expenditure before any additional planes are sent to NASWI to train over families already living in harm’s way.

The Environmental Impact Study must be monitored because of massive evidence of deception.

The transition from Prowlers to Growlers occurred without an EIS because the 2005 Environmental Assessment (EA) determined that both the noise and the number of flights of Growler aircraft would be less than the Prowlers they would be replacing.  Therefore, “No Impact” was found.  January to June 2013 proved neither to be true.

This community remembers the onslaught of Growlers in Spring of 2013.  The deafening roar of twice the number of operations threw the commujnity into a frenzy of activity to stop the noise – letters, protests, web sites, meetings with local leaders, political activity, and even a trip to Washington.  Many people put their homes up for sale and those who could sell, moved.  Hundreds of EIS Comments described the reaction to Growler noise, saying it was louder and much more disturbing than Prowler noise had ever been.

In June of 2013, Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, a leading activist group, initiated a legal complaint under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) forcing the Navy to comply with their own stated flight limits and produce the Environmental Impact Statement that should have been completed before the Growlers arrived.  

That study is now being conducted, targeted for a 2017 completion.  But the Navy is still pointing to the false 2005 “No Impact” projection, has resumed training, and will merely fold in additional planes for this and subsequent expansions!  Remember, they are already funded for 153 Growlers! 

Did the Navy assume no one would notice that the impact of Growlers was never objectively studied at all? In April 2015, the Citizens for the Ebey’s Reserve filed an injunction.

It’s been disruptive, painful and loud, but a full assault is coming!

Since June of 2013, training has been drastically modified:

  1. Training was suspended entirely for over six months.
  2. Since then, there have been far fewer operations right at the OLF.
  3. Instead, training has expanded over neighborhoods where jets previously did not fly without any published flight paths.  Realtors who have not used the legally required noise disclosure for over 20 years are now providing it everywhere, as far south as Clinton.

When additional planes arrive after the EIS is complete, the Navy will be free to return to altitudes and noise levels at the OLF to meet “normal” standards, flying at 250-440 feet altitude and almost full thrust. 

Could it get any worse? 

Could the Navy really be so hardened against this community they would go even further?  Would they also train foreign pilots here on Whidbey in Growlers built at Boeing in St. Louis?  Unbelievably, yes   Read the Whidbey New Times article which describes how everyone wins except the communities subjected to the noise.  Australia has already purchased planes, Australian pilots have been here training, and there are more contracts being sold to other countries.

Doubling the jets along with foreign pilot training will more than double the health risks associated with extreme noise.  Hearing loss and potentially fatal health problems from off-the-charts noise is statistically probable, especially for the elderly. 

Can this be stopped? 

The current Navy Environmental Impact Statement process will not protect civilians because the Navy will not willingly regulate itself.  Going through the motions to do a study is different from conducting a study intended to find and objectively address the impacts of these jets.   See EIS Deception for the local story, but the same EIS deception is being used nationwide to expand military activity, despite civilian abuse. NEPA violations are being compiled from around the country for easy review by the press, by agencies that could influence a change, and as a focus for activist groups who thought their fight was isolated.

Why must we contact Congress?

The Navy has convinced the community that closing the small, outdated outlying field in Coupeville would mean closing the base.   If it suddenly ceased to exist, the base would not be moved, of course, but the myth is pervasive, scaring people needlessly.

Only Congress or the President can set limits on Navy abuse.   Enforcement of the National Environmental Policy Act was taken from the Environmental Protection Agency.  That left decisions relating to civilian protection in the hands of local legislators, strongly influenced to persecute noise zone suffers to achieve the military mission, line the pockets of defense contractors, and reassure the military community desperate to preserve the local economy. There is little or no effort to ensure the protection of civilians as a part of the Navy plan.

Why not appeal to the Navy?

The Navy has already widely distributed its EIS “No Impact” finding – in brochures, charts, in a Navy position letter written to the Secretary of the Navy by Captain Nortier, on the Navy web site, in Press Releases, and in one-on-one conversations. 

At the last December 2014 EIS Scoping Meeting, Base Commander, Captain Michael  Nortier, voiced the Navy “No Impact” position over and over, again defending his letter containing the Navy position statement on various points.

For example, he asserts that noise disclosure has been provided since 1992, despite the 2013 announcement from the Island County Prosecutor that it had not.  A class action law suit has since been filed to recover damages.  He explained the conflict between the Navy position and Island County law by repeating a statement that was made over and over at the EIS Scoping Meetings by Navy Brass and Navy representatives alike.  He  just kept repeating the statement, “We see things differently.”  One can imagine the Navy memo suggesting that, when confronted with Navy deception regarding NEPA, noise levels, health risk, crash zones, easements, Growler-Prowler comparisons, and so much more, this is the statement to stop any debate.  What else can be said when there is no honest response?

The Navy cannot study itself when it is geared to maximize all resources for national defense and sees plans and funds for civilian protection as obstacles to their goals.  Over the years, ignoring the pain imposed by jet noise has become a conditioned bad habit, rewarded by a showcase base, popularity, influence, career advancement, and awesome military might.  These rewards have dulled any sense of moral or legal responsibility toward this suffering community.  Even the request to post flight cancellation information available to citizens by phone, providing the opportunity to freely use jet free time, was too much to ask.

Who in Congress should be contacted?

There are two Congressional Committees that make decisions on the numbers and use of these jets – the Armed Services Committees and the Appropriations Committees. Neither the Navy nor our local representatives have informed these committee members of the EIS deception or the true impact to civilians on the ground and it is unrealistic to believe they ever will.  They have been informed of the problem through the ASC Open Letter, but each of us must remind them with short, personal stories. 

Congress has been told that this is a health emergency.

  1. People with a variety of serious health issues like heart problems, cancer, depression, diabetes, and immune deficiencies moved to Coupeville because a hospital is close at hand. There is ample evidence that the stressful, constant roar of Growlers can cause and certainly worsen these conditions. For some, a move away from the noise is impossible. 
  2. The danger for children is particularly disturbing. Parents who benefit from the noise through jobs, military association, or cheaper noise zone housing brag on-line that they never take precautions to protect their children from jet noise.  Kids wander the streets as jets fly low overhead.
  3. All reputable noise studies predict the outcome when the human body is exposed to this extreme noise.  The Navy chooses to ignore the studies that reveal the health risk.  The difficulty of proving a direct cause-affect relationship protected the cigarette companies and the Navy is shielded from what would be a very expensive law suit  undertaken from families in the noise zones.  There are no deep pockets in the small persecuted population.

Our local legislators have not responded.

As members of this community, we have called, emailed, and faxed. We have gone to local offices. We have even gone to Washington DC to meet.  We have conducted studies, provided community health workshops, taken expensive legal action, protested and formed coalitions.  No effort has produced results. It took a long time to learn that our own elected leaders will not protect us from the worst noise abuse that exists anywhere. They would not be reelected if they did; too many voters benefit from the abuse.

We sometimes must explain our reasons for not going to our own Congressional leaders for protection first. It is against Congressional convention to respond to anyone but a constituent, but many have listened and others like Senator John McCain and Senator Diane Feinstein have responded anyway.  Do not be concerned if you do not hear back.

Now, because of the escalation, we renew out effort and continue to appeal to the leaders who can make a difference.

The ASC and Appropriations Committee Members make the decisions on additional Growlers and a new OLF.  The offices of all Committee Members in both the House and Senate have already received the ASC Open Letter which explains the injustice of what has been done and the dire effect on this community.  The ASC Open Letter requests that each member work to:

  1. SET NAVY LIMITS. The Navy cannot police itself; therefore, Congress must. See EIS Deception for examples of statements already made regarding top concerns that are not true and show bias.
  2. FUND CIVILIAN PROTECTION.  Any funding for military escalation should include funding to protect civilians against noise abuse.  In this instance, at the very least, alternatives must be found and the OLF moved.

Every person affected must act now.

You are affected if:

  1. You want to stop the current noise and its planned escalation.
  2. You are sick and tired of the typical forms of harassment;
    • Growlers are “the sound of freedom” when you know they rob your freedom and represent persecution in America, instead.
    • “Jets = Jobs, ” when there are no jobs at the OLF.
    • “Moving the base would mean base closure” when you know the current encroachment is a more likely reason for closing the base.
    • “Shut up or move” when you recognize a bully’s tactic to pressure you to bear your pain silently.
  3. You have educated yourself and realize that the health and emotional risks are, or soon will be, at an emergency level for both you and your family.

Others not as closely affected may join in to help right a wrong, but the outcome will be determined by those most strongly affected. This is not like an election where your vote may not count.  The outcome will not be decided by a petition, on-line comments to newspaper articles, votes for local politicians, the majority opinion of people on Whidbey Island, or even the Environmental Impact Statement. It will be decided by the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees.  Your voice will be heard and it will count.

Are you ready to act? 

For directions to make it easier, go to the Contact Congress page. You’ll find lists, samples, and a “copy and paste” system for emails that make it possible to contact many decision-makers in less time than you would imagine. Check out the work that has been done for you to help you contribute to the effort that may result in a normal life for you and your family.

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