Anti-Growler group to hold 'vigil' at OLF Friday

The group aiming to shut down Outlying Field in Coupeville to Growler landing practices is holding a “vigil” Friday at the entrance of the field.

Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, also known as COER, issued a release Monday inviting people to take part in the 12:30 p.m. event to express “sadness and anger at the Navy’s refusal and total lack of responsibility to take our civilian concerns seriously or to reconcile the harm being done.”

During the vigil, protesters will fly the American flag upside-down as "a signal of dire distress, according to the U.S. Flag Code," according to a release from the group.

Mike Monson, president of COER, said the group believes it was a good time, with the resumption of touch-and-go practices, to again raise awareness of the noise issue.

“People are angry again,” he said, adding that a whole new group of people is complaining since the Navy’s EA-18 Growlers started flying a route they rarely traveled previously.

The gathering will be at the entrance to the Outlying Field, just across from Welcher Road. Monson said anti-noise group members will remain within the state right-of-way and will be careful not to step onto Navy property or block traffic on the state highway.

“As long as protesters stay off Navy property, they are within their Constitutional rights to have their vigil,” said Mike Welding, public affairs officer for Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown agreed.

Brown said the group has the right to gather at the site and protest what they want, as long as members don’t block traffic.

Monson said organizers didn’t want to call the event a protest in order to underscore the peaceful nature of the event.

“Our intention is to be very, very law abiding,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t be surprised if people on the pro-noise, pro-Growler side of the issue also show up.

“From their history, the pro-OLF people are a little rash and unable to control themselves,” he said.

Monson said he expects people from around Puget Sound to attend the vigil.

“This is not a local issue, it’s not a case of NIMBY (not in my backyard), it’s a regional issue,” he said.

COER highlighted the jet noise issue by filing a federal lawsuit against the Navy last June, demanding an Environmental Impact Statement process to evaluate the impact of the transition from Prowlers to the louder Growlers.

The lawsuit is on hold as the Navy performs the environmental study.


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