New group seeks to find balance between community, Navy

A new group of concerned community members will host its own impact forum on the expansion of Navy operations next week.

Coupeville Community Allies, composed of business owners and residents who ardently support the Navy, but share concerns over the impact of increased EA-18G Growler aircraft operations, according to Lori Taylor, a CCA member and Coupeville resident.

Taylor said the group began to form at the end of last year during the time of the Navy’s open house meetings for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Taylor wanted to make one thing very clear: “We are not anti-Navy … We just feel the conversation has become so polarized over the issues that some people are just too afraid to say anything.”

Taylor added the Allies also want to make everyone aware they are not like the activist group Citizen’s of Ebey’s Reserve, or COER.

“Unlike COER, who wants the Navy to go away, we fully support the military and Navy.”

Taylor explained the issues are not pro- or anti-Navy, Republican or Democrat.

“The goal of CCA is to have a balanced partnership with the Navy,” said Taylor.

CCA invited Rep. Rick Larsen, Sen. Patty Murry, Sen. Maria Cantwell and Navy officials, Taylor said.

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island public affairs officer Mike Welding said there are no plans for base officials to attend, but encouraged residents to communicate with the Navy through their locally elected officials.

Although the Navy had public meetings with experts to answer questions and take comments, residents were trying to absorb the abundance of information before the holidays said Taylor.

Navy officials further extended the comment period an additional 30 days on top of the original 75.

The National Environmental Protection Act only requires a 45 day public comment period.

“The purpose of having our own impact forum is for us to present and discuss how we feel the Navy’s actions will affect and impact us.”

Taylor said she is disappointed the Navy and elected officials have declined the invitation to attend.

The forum, which is 4-7 p.m. Monday at the Coupeville Rec Hall, 401 NW Alexander St., Coupeville, is intended to be an opportunity for community members to discuss real impacts of the proposed expansion of Growler operations on Coupeville and Central Whidbey.