Lower property values from jet noise hurt port revenues, say commissioners

The Port of Coupeville joined a growing list of Central Whidbey entities asking that the Navy locate any increase in EA-18G Growler practices at Ault Field on North Whidbey.

In response to the Navy’s draft Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, the port commissioners approved a letter Wednesday asking that flight operations at Outlying Field Coupeville not exceed 20 percent of all operations, preferably less than that.

Declining property values resulting from increased jet noise over Central Whidbey has a direct impact on the port’s economic vitality, said Port Commissioner John Mishasek.

“The reality is, I think, the Port of Coupeville has already been harmed,” Mishasek said. “The people deciding not to buy lots and build expensive home affects our tax levy.

“Can that be tracked?” he asked rhetorically. “Probably not.”

Approximately 35 Growlers are projected to be moved to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, resulting in a potential 47 percent increase in flight operations, including aircraft carrier landing practice at Outlying Field Coupeville and Ault Field, according to details included in the Navy’s EIS.

Initially, the commissioners weren’t commenting on the EIS, but the issue was raised by former executive director David Day.

During a previous meeting, Day told the commissioners that the port has a duty to include comments in the EIS.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Day made it known to the commissioners that he is not pleased by the comments they drafted.

Day said he finds the letter “lacking,” and questioned whether the port commissioners even reviewed the Navy EIS.

“There are tens of items that need to be addressed,” Day told the commissioners.

Mishasek said he attended several community meetings on the EIS, and said the port was never formally invited to comment on the report.

“Looking at the Navy’s own literature on who they’ve reached out to, we weren’t listed ever,” Mishasek said.

The EIS presents three options for an expanded Growler fleet, identified as “A,” “B” and “C,” each with a breakdown by percentages citing possible division of flight operations between the Ault Field and OLF Coupeville.

Specifically, the options look at 20 percent of flight operations at Ault Field with 80 percent at OLF Coupeville; 50 percent at each field; and 80 percent at Ault Field and 20 percent at OLF Coupeville.

“If we’re looking at the best interests of the port, we don’t want our property taxes to be devalued,” Mishasek said.

The commissioners also discussed making a request that the Navy consider an option with even fewer flight operations at OLF Coupeville, possibly a 90-to-10 percent split, with the majority at Ault Field.

“I agree, but we don’t want to cloud our position by asking for a fourth scenario,” said Commissioner William Bell. “I just don’t think we’re going to change the thinking of the Navy significantly.”

Commissioner Bob Mon-roig said he agrees.

“C is the best of the options they’ve given us.”

n The Trust Board of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve meets 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 14 at the Coupeville Library to discuss comments to be submitted for the Navy’s draft EIS.