Langley joins opposition to training increases

Langley has officially added its voice to the growing opposition of a Navy plan to expand Growler military jet training at a rural field south of downtown Coupeville.

Tuesday, the city council voted to send a letter of support to Coupeville Mayor Molly Hughes after reviewing pros and cons of additional training practices for Navy EA-18G Growler jet pilots at Outlying Field Coupeville.

The jets are equipped to jam electronic communications to deflect radar and ground-to-air missiles. Naval Air Station Whidbey Island is the only location where Growler pilots receive training of “touch-and-go” passes that simulate landing on aircraft carriers.

Under the Navy’s identified “preferred alternative” proposal, which came out of an Environmental Impact Statement process and is awaiting final approval, the amount of practice necessary for Growler pilots to remain prepared means a four-fold increase of operations at OLF Coupeville and an additional 36 more Growlers would be added to the Whidbey Island base.

While the Navy says the plans are in the best interest of pilot safety and training, many residents of Central Whidbey and beyond — as well as officials in the federal, state and local government — have protested the plan, largely because of the noise of the aircraft.

The letter, which Langley Mayor Tim Callison also signed, notes that the expansion could negatively affect Langley’s “interests directly and indirectly.” It states that South Whidbey and Langley’s tourism economy could be negatively affected and that property values and county property tax collection could also diminish.

Earlier this month, the Langley city council was approached by members of the Sound Defense Alliance and individuals who cited negative effects of the Growler expansion and requested Langley write a resolution stating its opposition.

The city council voted to submit a letter to the Coupeville Town Council and Hughes instead because passing a formal resolution is more time consuming and requires a legal review and a public hearing.

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