A burnt bag of popcorn caused a minor disruption during a public meeting on Navy testing and training in the Northwest.
About 30 minutes after the doors opened at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, a fire alarm forced the approximately 30 people to evacuate the Oak Harbor High School cafeteria and wait in the parking lot until North Whidbey firefighters cleared the building.
Students overcooking popcorn were identified as the culprits and the meeting resumed.
Wendy Campbell De- Winter, who spoke during the public comment period of the meeting, said she thought the meeting was poorly attended.
“It was very disappointing,” Campbell DeWinter said. “The fact that public didn’t show up.”
The Navy said about 40 people attended the two-hour event, a vastly lower number than at other recent EIS meetings.
The purpose of this EIS is to determine the environmental impact of the Navy’s training and testing required to remain combat-ready, according to the Navy. Some of this training takes place at the five sites examined in this EIS, which comprise primarily off-shore areas throughout the Sound and does not include Whidbey Island Naval Air Station’s Ault Field or Outlying Field Coupeville.
This EIS is not related to the ongoing studies for the P-8A Poseidons, which will be completed in May, or the EA-18G Growlers EIS, which started in July.
Testing and training exercises include technology system development with missiles, radar, active and passive sonar, unmanned undersea vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles. The areas are also used to evaluate and maintain vessels, aircraft and operating systems.
A main distinction of this EIS is that it combines the EIS of the five testing areas into one, according to Lianne Nakahara, Navy Region Northwest public affairs specialist.
Nakahara stressed that while it may appear the Navy’s testing and training area is getting bigger, they are simply consolidating multiple regional testing areas into one review process to save on cost.
Campbell DeWinter is a founding member of Concerned Island Citizens and started a new community action group, Whidbey Island Noise Coalition, or WINC, a few months ago.
She said her primary concern is that the Navy is going to “destroy” the environmental beauty of the island.
“My forefathers landed at Ebey’s Landing in 1852,” Campbell DeWinter said. “What they passed onto me was that we were to protect the earth and the sea. I don’t think we are doing that.”
The public comment portion of the EIS continues through March 25.
The public is invited to comment online or by mail. The postal address, documents, videos and additional information about the project can be found online at www.nwtteis.com