Editor’s note: The following is a guest commentary submitted by Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard and Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson:
The recent lawsuit, filed by a local citizen’s group, alleges the Navy has not complied with the National Environmental Policy Act in relation to its use of the Outlying Field south of Coupeville.
We have heard talk in the community that the lawsuit seeks to close OLF, and that has caused concern for those whose lives are connected to Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.
We have read the complaint and, in reality, the plaintiffs have requested that the court:
“1. Declare that the Navy has failed to act by failing to conduct appropriate environmental review of its activities at OLF Coupeville.
2. Issue an order compelling that the Navy conduct the required environmental review of its flight operations at OLF Coupeville.
3. Issue a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction and/or permanent injunction requiring the Navy to cease all flight operations at OLF Coupeville until such time as it has conducted appropriate environmental review of its operations.
4. Award plaintiffs their costs of litigation, including reasonable attorney’s fees and expert witness fees incurred in bringing this action.
5. Grant any further relief as the Court deems just and proper.”
The rights of this citizens group to file such a lawsuit cannot be contested — they are exercising a remedy embedded in our constitution, exercised through our judicial system.
We hope all residents of the Whidbey Island community will respect this group’s right to secure more environmental information and give the Navy time to provide the information.
We trust the legal and environmental process will be followed to properly identify impacts of the use of OLF, and for the appropriate mitigations to be determined and implemented.
Unfortunately, this action has caused tension in our island community. Some people believe that their lives are negatively affected by the operations at OLF.
Others think that our local Navy community is being challenged or threatened.
We value and respect the presence of the Navy at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.
Military and civilian personnel who work there are our neighbors and friends; they own and work at local businesses; their children attend schools with our children; they attend our churches and they support so many of our community activities.
The economy of Whidbey Island is hugely dependent on the Navy’s presence here — from the jobs that are available, to the dollars spent by employees who work on the base, to the businesses that exist to serve our total population, to the value of our homes and real estate.
The lawsuit will be determined in court, based on the facts, science and law.
The legal outcome won’t be changed by drawing lines in the sand here in our community, but our community will surely suffer if we choose sides against our neighbors.
Let’s take the opportunity to pull together, support our neighbors and friends, and wait for our legal process to take its course.