COER weighing lawsuit over Growlers

Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, or COER, is considering litigation against the U.S. Navy over the noise from EA-18G Growler flights at the Outlying Field Coupeville.

Bob Wilbur, president of COER, said the group is looking at several possible litigation routes. The group may challenge the adequacy and accuracy of the Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act; it may also explore class action lawsuits based on property damage and takings, he said.

“There’s nothing concrete at this time,” he said. “But in the not-so-distant future we may go forward with litigation, or not if that’s the decision.”

A spokesman at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island provided a statement that said “it would not be appropriate to comment on the specifics of any potential or pending litigation.”

“The Navy completed a thorough and comprehensive Final Environmental Impact Statement that addresses all of the comments received during the six-year project satisfying the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act,” according to the statement.

The secretary of the Navy released a final decision earlier this year that will mean more Growlers at the base and a nearly fourfold increase of aircraft carrier landing practice at OLF Coupeville.

An estimated 350 people attended a Sound Defense Alliance rally against Growler noise last week at the Crockett Barn in Coupeville. Speakers discussed the multiple ways Sound Defense Alliance, other activism groups and public officials are taking action against the Navy to stop the “hours of ear-splitting, body-hammering noise,” according to a press release.

In addition, many people who attended were interested in the possibility of litigation.

Sound Defense Alliance will not be involved in a lawsuit, according to a press release from the group.

But COER, a founding member of Sound Defense Alliance, is holding an independent meeting to discuss litigation issues at 6 p.m., May 8 at the Crockett Barn. Anyone interested in participating or learning more is welcome to attend, according to COER.

In 2013, COER filed a lawsuit against the Navy in U.S. District Court in Seattle. The group sought to force the Navy to prepare a full EIS for the transition on Whidbey from the EA-6B Prowlers to the Growlers.

The Navy agreed to do the EIS, saying the decision to do so was made before the lawsuit was filed. COER filed a preliminary injunction against the Navy to halt flights until the EIS was completed, but the judge ruled against COER.

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