Letter: Appreciates the facts, but there’s more to the story

Editor,

As a COER board member and participant in regular joint meetings with CCA, I can think of no one in either group that does not respect and praise the service of all military servicemen and women, past and present and that surely includes Roger Dietrich.

I appreciate the factual matters Mr. Dietrich raised in his Aug. 22 letter. He did correctly note that the OLF Coupeville operates under a waiver—a waiver the Navy gave itself.

A “waiver” simply allows the object in review to fall short of standards or codes.

The OLF Coupeville is about 38 percent substandard in runway length and 29,000 acres short in surrounding acreage.

I am willing to accept that those shortfalls may not be too serious of an issue for pilots in a mishap situation, but I am unconvinced that the acreage deficit is not a grave safety issue for surrounding residents, businesses and farm workers.

Mr. Dietrich explained that path 14 is now usable via a “simple matter of redrawing the flight patterns.”

That is supported by prior commander, Capt. Mike Nortier, who explained via declaration in federal court that “EA-18G cannot safely operate within the confines of the daytime runway 14 parameters currently in place” [i.e., before 2016], and that the Navy “is examining runway [14] usage and historical noise abatement procedures” in the EIS process.

Nortier further explained, “In the past, the flight pattern for runway 14 was adjusted for noise abatement purposes for homes on the eastern coastal boundary…”

In 2017, path 14 was used about 25 percent of the time, so apparently with the redrawn flight patterns those noise abatement procedures were voided out, and path 14 is now fully usable, depending, as Mr. Dietrich explained, on wind direction.

That is, jets on a carrier always land and takeoff into the wind.

The prevailing winds from fall through spring are southerly at the OLF Coupeville. So, for about 7-8 months of the year, path 14 is most often wind appropriate and necessary.

The draft EIS, however, indicates path 14 will be used only 30 percent of the time.

If noise abatement is a genuine concern and path 14 is more often usable than is path 32, why isn’t the split at least 50/50, especially since the vast preponderance of noise-impacted residences, businesses, and recreational and historic venues are under Path 32?

Here is one possible reason: If the Navy selects its preferred 23,700 operations for the OLF Coupeville, and it were to split the operations evenly between paths 14 and 32, it would mean both paths would exceed the 5,000 operational threshold requiring APZs.

Conversely, if path 14 received 70 percent of the operations, the APZs would occur on that path only.

The solution is none of the above.

Finally, Roger Dietrich notes that his career as a pilot makes him an “expert” compared with anyone from the COER or CCA — now combined as the Sound Defense Alliance: Whidbey.

We certainly appreciate his expertise, but not his thoughtless denigration of civilian organizations seeking a better way—a real and lasting solution.

Rest assured, Roger, within the thousands of Alliance members there are ex-military advisors and many highly educated, broadly experienced, and well-intended civilians who have served this country in ways you and your cohorts have likely benefited from but may not realize.

This is an important discourse that should not transcend into demeaning rhetoric and misplaced allegiances that fail to serve the Whidbey Island community or our country.

Robert Wilbur

Coupeville

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