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Navy’s EIS comment period extended | UPDATED

In response to a number of requests, the Navy is extending the scoping period for the Environmental Impact Statement on the EA-18G Growlers. However, the Navy will not be holding additional scoping meetings for this EIS.

Comments are now being accepted until Friday, Jan. 31.

Purpose of the extension is “to ensure all surrounding communities have ample opportunity to provide input,” Navy officials said in a prepared news release.

Recently, the Navy was criticized by the City of Port Townsend and San Juan County.

David King, the mayor of Port Townsend, said he and the city council complained that they were not notified about the EIS process or offered a public scoping meeting.

Public meetings were held during December in Coupeville, Oak Harbor and Anacortes. The scoping period began Sept. 5, with the original deadline for closing it set for Jan. 3.

King described the Navy’s new Growlers, which are replacing the EA-6B Prowlers, as “pretty loud” and “very much noticed” by Port Townsend residents.

Though saying the Navy originally overlooked Port Townsend in the scoping process, King said he is encouraged that the Navy extended the scoping period.

“It seems like, in asking for it, we were able to get it,” King said.

Port Townsend’s city council also asked for an additional public scoping meeting, King said, which the Navy does not appear to be offering at this time.

Still, King said, the Navy’s response was “a step in that direction” and he remains hopeful that Port Townsend will continue to be included as the EIS progresses.

An additional opportunity for public input will held after the EIS statement is written and a draft version is made public in 2015.

It doesn’t seem likely that Port Townsend’s city council would be taking a formal position on the Growler, King said, but added members believe it is important that community member’s comments, whatever they might be, be included in the EIS.

The San Juan County Council sent a letter to the Navy on Jan. 2, asking for an extension of the EIS scoping period by 60 days and for a local public input meeting.

“At 6.5 nautical miles from the runways at NAS Whidbey, the San Juan Islands are geographically closer than Anacortes or Coupeville,” said council Chairman Jamie Stephens in a letter. “Therefore, we feel a comment period extension and a local meeting are in order.”

Ted Brown, the Navy’s Installations and Environmental public affairs officer, said that while the Navy wants gather comments from all affected parties through Jan. 31, the Navy is not planning any additional scoping meetings for this EIS.

Brown said the scoping period has already been "unusually long" at 120 days and that additional meetings are not possible due to "cost constraints and timeline impacts."

The EIS scoping period is gathering information about the environmental impact of basing two additional expeditionary Growler squadrons and three additional aircraft to the training squadron at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

The Navy uses Outlying Field Coupeville for carrier touch-and-go landing practices. Pre-deployment qualification. Operations at both OLF Coupeville and the main base in Oak Harbor are being considered in the EIS.

The Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, or COER, a group which sued the Navy in July over jet noise, said in a statement Monday that it was good to see the Navy responding to public requests.

“People in areas outside Coupeville, Oak Harbor and Anacortes have gotten the Navy to hear their voices, raised in unison, asking for fairness and a hearing,” said Michael Monson, president of COER.

“The Navy has hopefully realized their error in not listening to the many people affected by Growler noise,” Monson said. “COER is still disturbed that the Navy doesn’t feel it necessary to conduct scoping meetings, as they should have done, in these outlying areas.”

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen praised the Navy’s decision Tuesday to extend the public comment period.

“This is good news for residents of Whidbey Island and neighboring counties,” Larsen said.

“The Navy’s decision to extend the public comment period is a direct response to requests from community members and shows the Navy is participating in this process in good faith. While this extension may not be as long as some had hoped, it gives community members nearly three more weeks to submit comments.”

“I encourage residents to take advantage of this opportunity to share their suggestions and concerns.”

Public input is very important in order for the Navy to fully understand community concerns and relevant issues, Navy officials said Monday in their news release.

-Members of the public may mail comments to: EA-18G EIS Project Manager (Code EV21/SS); Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Atlantic, 6506 Hampton Blvd, Norfolk, Va. 23508. Comments may also be submitted via the project website at www.whidbeyeis.com

 

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