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Petitions gain support on both sides of Outlying Field debate
Since it began last month, a hand-written petition supporting the Navy and its touch-and-go operations at Outlying Field Coupeville has gathered roughly 3,000 signatures, according to organizer Mac McDowell.
Recent pro-Navy efforts, which include a separate online petition and support rallies, are in response to complaints by some Coupeville residents about the noise associated with jet touch-and-go landing practices at OLF.
The complaints were followed by a federal lawsuit filed by a Coupeville-based citizens group seeking to compel the Navy to complete an Environmental Impact Study and suspend landing practices at OLF in the meantime.
The Navy has since suspended its touch-and-go operations at OLF through the end of the year at OLF and initiated an Environmental Impact Study last week.
On its website, the Coupeville group is calling for the closure and relocation of OLF and said its online petition has gathered more than 1,300 signatures from around the region and country.
Whidbey Island Naval Air Station is in the process of phasing out the EA-6B Prowler and replacing it with the EA-18G Growler, an aircraft the citizen’s group claims is louder.
McDowell’s hand-written petition was conceived by the former Island County commissioner and retired Navy veteran himself. He and his supporters are referred to as “Team McDowell.”
His petition first appeared for signatures at the Aug. 10 car show in Oak Harbor.
Since then, McDowell has also stood at the front door of Walmart gathering signatures and placed additional petitions at local businesses.
“We want to show our support to the Navy and to OLF and the operations they perform there,” McDowell said.
McDowell said his petition is not intended to replace an already-existing online petition that has gathered more than 1,500 signatures country-wide.
“This is just a snail-mail version,” he said.
Navy and OLF supporters online said they are encouraging people to sign as many petitions as they can.
While McDowell does have some visitors sign the petition, the vast majority are local residents from Oak Harbor and Coupeville.
McDowell said the most interesting thing he’s found during his signature gathering is from Coupeville residents who live near OLF, but say they aren’t bothered by the noise or don’t plan to complain about it.
McDowell said he plans to collect signatures through the end of September and then send it off to top-ranking Navy leadership in Washington, D.C.
When asked if he has a signature goal in mind, McDowell said he was just gathering “as many as possible.”
Hand-written petitions supporting the Navy can be found at Island Lock and Key, Quilter’s Workshop, Diamond Rentals and Hilltop Texaco. Online petitions for either side can be found at moveon.org and ipetitions.com