Citizens of Ebey's Reserve goes after Growlers

The Coupeville-based group that filed a federal lawsuit against the Navy over jet noise in July is now demanding the EA-18G Growlers be completely removed from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

“Growler jets, with their low-level training operations, have no business on Whidbey Island or in any other populated and environmentally sensitive area,” according to COER President, Michael Monson.

“It is now our position that the Growlers must go, and we are making that case to our state and national elected officials and communities throughout the region.”

The Navy has started transitioning its electronic attack squadrons comprising the EA-6B Prowlers to the EA-18G Growlers. The Navy is also considering bringing in two additional Growler squadrons in 2016.

The group had previously called for a closure of Outlying Field Coupeville, which shares a border with Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve and where the Navy conducts touch-and-go Growler operations. The Navy also conducts Growler operations at Ault Field, where some nearby residents have also complained about jet noise.

“We now know that people in other places are affected and at risk,” said Ken Pickard of COER. “If the Navy could mitigate the problem, they would have done so. We can’t ask that the noise we endure be shifted to their communities.“

Complaints about the noise have also surfaced in surrounding communities such as La Conner, Mount Vernon, Port Townsend and the San Juan Islands.

COER members said last year that the Growlers would be tolerable if Navy kept the number of operations at OLF to 6,120 annually, the number estimated in a 2005 environmental assessment. The Navy has conceded that operations did exceed this number by roughly 3,000 in 2011 and 2012, and have agreed to keep to the 6,120 projection.

For this reason and others, the group maintains that the Navy “can’t be trusted” to keep their word and that the alleged difference in noise level from the Prowler to the Growler has caused them to change their stance on the issue.

“Many citizens tolerated jet noise for years, but bringing in the Growlers was the tipping point,” said COER member, Paula Spina.

“The Navy and its Growler expansion has been destructive and divisive for people in Puget Sound, pitting Island communities against each other,” said Maryon Attwood of COER.

“If the Growler expansion is writing on the wall, Whidbey Island and the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve will be a less attractive place to live and visit.”

NAS Whidbey is the only air station to base the new Growler squadrons. Its predecessor, the Prowler, has had squadrons based and trained primarily out of NAS Whidbey since 1971. Four Marine Corps Prowler squadrons are currently stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina, and a reserve squadron moved to NAS Whidbey last year from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

During a recent interview, Congressman Rick Larsen said he doesn’t think basing the Growlers elsewhere, or closure of OLF, is likely in the foreseeable future.

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