Navy receives more than 4,200 EIS comments

More Growlers are coming to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

Navy staff involved in the Environmental Impact Statement process for EA-18G Growlers have a lot of reading ahead of them.

Ted Brown, public affairs officer for U.S. Fleet Forces Command, said the Navy received more than 4,200 comments as of the Feb. 24 for the draft EIS, which looks at the increase in the number of the aircraft stationed at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

Brown said they were still getting comments in the mail last week.

Brown said staff members are in the process of sorting through, cataloging and assessing the comments. He said the Navy will respond to every comment in the final EIS, though duplicate comments will be grouped together.

He said it’s premature to discuss the comments or respond to any comment in particular.

The state Board of Health last week — long after the deadline — voted to echo one of the state Department of Health’s recommendations to the Navy, which is that the Navy conduct an assessment on Whidbey Island on the health effects of Growler aircraft.

Brown said the timeline for the EIS process is unchanged. The plan is to publish the final EIS in the fall. He said the secretary of the Navy, or his designee, will likely make a decision by the end of the year about which of the alternatives from the EIS to implement.

The draft EIS offered three alternatives for how aircraft carrier landing practices will be distributed between the large Ault Field base and Outlying Field Coupeville. It presents three alternatives for the number of Growlers dedicated to fleet squadrons as opposed to expeditionary squadrons.

In addition to state offices, several other governmental entities submitted comments. The National Park Service, the Town of Coupeville and the Trust Board of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve voiced concerns about the potential for a large increase in the number of Growler flights at OLF Coupeville.