I am a Navy veteran and served as a division officer from 1968 to 1971. I am proud of my service. When my wife and I picked Whidbey Island to build our retirement home, a bonus was the Navy being here. We did consult the noise map provided by our realtor and were successful in finding a lot where flight operations have a minimal impact.
I am concerned about the lack of civil discourse with regards to the effect the Navy has on our community. There is a need for all sides to come together to determine what is best for Whidbey Island, the Navy and our country.
The local discussion tends to get polarized into only two sides: 1)the Navy can do no wrong and anyone who questions the Navy is un-American and should leave, and 2) the Navy is causing more harm than good and the Navy should leave.
This is a false polarization which doesn’t accomplish anything other than making each other mad.
It seems to me that there really are legitimate and different sides to the issue. On one side, the Navy needs a ready force and requires extensive training to achieve that goal. Landing F-18s on carriers is one of the most dangerous and challenging things our military does. On the other side, there really are negative impacts that result from that training. Noise in excess of 120 db over a prolonged period can be debilitating. Safety issues of planes flying low and slow are real. Water quality, resulting from the use of certain firefighting chemicals, has also had a negative impact.
The current EIS, and Navy’s preferred choice, will increase flight operation at the OLF by 400 percent over recent operating levels. Per the Navy, this will require them to create an APZ at the OLF. If this is done, the county will be obliged to review zoning requirements for central Whidbey and many current uses of land and road locations will be impacted.
This will most likely have a devastating impact on Central Whidbey property values, and subsequently all of Island County, and is not a sustainable solution.
There is another option that is not currently being considered.
What if the Navy decided not to site 100 percent of all carrier based EA-18 aircraft at NAS Whidbey? What if instead, they were to establish two bases, each with half of the airplanes and support staff? If this were to happen, then the number of planes at NAS Whidbey would be reduced by a small amount and training activities could be scheduled so as to not require an APZ at the OLF.
We need some kind of solution where everybody can win. If our electronic warfare assets were not staged in one location the country would be safer — remember Pearl Harbor — our community would be better off and we could focus more on becoming better neighbors, and our politicians who help make this happen could win major points by helping our community and our country.