Letter: Base commander’s Sound Off ‘was a dud’

Editor,

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Commander Capt. Moore’s recent Sound Off in the Whidbey News-Times was a dud.

Sure, the intent of the Navy’s Air Installations Compatible Use Zones, or AICUZ, is “to bring the Navy and the community together to plan effectively for land use compatibility of remaining undeveloped areas surrounding air installations.”

But that intent has failed dismally here.

The 2005 AICUZ stipulates that no residences should be constructed in a Noise Zone 2 or Noise Zone 3, only very restrictive other uses.

Within those no-go noise areas are over 1,000 residential properties, a heavily-used county recycle center, an Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool at Admirals Cove, the transit facility with above-ground fuel storage tanks, Rhododendron Park for youth soccer and softball events, Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve, Fort Casey and a recently permitted residence for homeless youngsters directly adjacent to the dangerous takeoff area —- one of the loudest and most dangerous portions of the OLF flight path.

The county never paid attention to that, issuing building permits without a second thought, even knowing those same noise areas could also be designated as Accident Potential Zones, or APZ, and severely impact unaware owners.

Seemingly oblivious, Capt. Moore further notes that the Navy’s primary concern with the current EIS is “evaluating whether our proposed level of operations is compatible with current land use and ensures that we have a complete understanding of community impacts before we make a decision on the distribution of operations between Ault Field and OLF Coupeville … [because we] are committed to compatible use.”

That “evaluation” is unnecessary. The current levels of operation are, in fact, not compatible with the 2005 AICUZ. The Growlers will never be “compatible with existing land use” because the Navy cannot retrofit their noise or crash risks with Coupeville’s history, which long precedes the Navy’s.

Even all the Admirals Cove development properties were nearly sold out in the 1960s, preceding the Navy’s early 1970s decision to use the OLF for flight carrier landing practice, or FCLP. So, it is the Navy that actually has encroached on Coupeville.

Given all of that, it is laughable to think that more Growlers will somehow produce a fix. But you can’t blame the Navy for wanting to convince folks of that or that they are “committed to compatible use.”

They aren’t. The reality is they are committed to their mission – their job – and all the rest is just image-polishing and damage control.

Nevertheless, there is a real fix that would give NAS Whidbey pilots the training they must have and do deserve. Our pilots in recent years have been conducting thousands of FCLPs from Virginia to California. These are sites where FCLPs are okay—where they actually fit AICUZ compatibility guidelines.

So, instead of rhetoric to try to convince us that more Growlers will fix the problem, let’s please demand a real fix: moving the FCLPs off Whidbey and to alternatives better for pilots and for Whidbey Islanders and our distressed San Juan and peninsula neighbors.

Robert Wilbur,

Citizens of the Ebey’s

Reserve board member

Coupeville

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