Anti-OLF leader says group’s efforts won’t end with EIS

A judge has awarded a stay on the lawsuit filed against the Navy by a Coupeville group seeking to stop touch-and-go operations at Outlying Field Coupeville.

The group received what they describe as a victory when the Navy agreed to conduct the Environmental Impact Statement the members were demanding in their lawsuit.

Now they say they have additional plans, including a class-action lawsuit.

Controversy over OLF Coupeville reached a fever pitch earlier this year with increasing complaints about the noise associated with the Navy’s ongoing field landing carrier practice, or aircraft touch-and-go operations.

The Navy is in the process of transiting from the EA-6B Prowler to the EA-8G Growler, an aircraft some claim is louder.

The Navy suspended landing practice operations at OLF Coupeville through the end of the calendar year, and the Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve or COER filed a lawsuit demanding the EIS with the aim of closing OLF and stopping touch-and-gos there completely.

However, according to COER President Ken Pickard, the group has no plans to stop with the EIS.

In October, the group said it plans to release a report compiled by health experts hired by COER.

Pickard, a former attorney in Island County, said the report explains health risks associated with operations at OLF Coupeville to both children and adults.

Among the group are researchers associated with Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, he said.

“The impacts are enormous, real and scientifically based,” Pickard said.

If the Navy intends to restart the touch-and-gos at OLF in January as planned, COER’s attorney David Mann will file an injunction calling for the Navy to desist until the EIS is completed in 2015, Pickard said.

While Pickard said he believes the EIS may mitigate the problem, he is not optimistic that the EIS will lead to a closure of OLF.

For that reason, he said, COER is considering a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

The group plans to follow the example of a Virginia Beach group that sued the Navy, claiming that “loud F/A-18 Hornets (at Oceana Naval Air Station) have lowered the value of their homes and negatively affected their everyday lives,” according to a newspaper there, the Virginian-Pilot.

Damages are estimated at $500 million, according to the report.

“We don’t want money, just peace and quiet,” Pickard said via an email following a telephone interview. “But if we can’t get peace in quiet we will have to go in this direction, a four-county wide inverse condemnation class action, get the compensation for our lost property values due to jet overflight and then decide whether to sell out and move on or stay and live with ear protectors on our heads.

“I will leave if we are unsuccessful. However, I believe we will prevail in getting the OLF closed to military flight training.”

Ultimately, Pickard said, the only solution may be a “political decision” on a national level, but added he is disappointed in what he called a lack of response from U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen and other elected leaders.

Larsen, who is an outspoken supporter of the Navy, has been unresponsive to the group’s complaints, Pickard said.

“Our office was in consistent contact with and responded to inquiries from the Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve until they filed a lawsuit, at which point they understood we could no longer engage,” Larsen’s office said in a prepared statement.

“Since that time our office records show we haven’t received any requests to meet with their group.”


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