My property is in the direct flight path of OLF jets. Some days, I can look up and see the pilot’s heads as they zoom a short distance above my trees. The sound is amazingly loud. I honestly can’t believe it’s legal, especially late summer nights until 11 p.m., but I signed up for this when I bought the property five years ago. My real estate agent handed me a map with concentric noise zones showing the decibel levels. I knew what I was getting into and I accepted it.
The Navy has been on Whidbey for many decades. It’s part of the island’s culture, as much as quaint farms, fishing industries, and small town communities. When conversations with neighbors are paused for deafening jet noise, we laugh and call it “The Sound of Freedom” with a shrug. I appreciate and respect the military. Both my grandfathers and my father fought as Navy seamen and a pilot in WW2 and Vietnam. My brother-in-law was a Navy SEAL. No one can question my patriotism for what I’m about to say, because this is not about patriotism, as some have tried to make it.
I accepted a level of noise in frequency of flights, not in decibels as many argue with real or imagined data. I was led to believe there would be a certain number of flights every year, give or take a bit. That’s fine. But if that number of flights doubles, or as I’ve read even three to four times the original number of flights per year, we have a problem. You can’t change the deal so drastically. Even if you are the Navy.
My property is also in the direct path of a WSDOT road widening project on SR20. Over a dozen property owners are being compensated for losing about 20 feet from the roadway in an eminent domain process. We are being compensated for land taken, trees cut, gates and signs moved, and in my case a new septic system. I support the project, and so far I’m content with the process, but it’s been years in the making. Tedious negotiations with property owners, months of property appraisals and committee decisions, and probably some lawyers before it’s done.
Eminent domain and compensating affected property owners has been suggested as a solution for the OLF jet noise issue. Forget it. That would take a decade, involve absurd amounts of committee approval and legal expenses, and clog up this editorial section with even more grumpy letters than we’ve seen so far.
The only solution is to hold the Navy to it’s original frequency of flights, and if it really needs to expand it’s training exercises by two- to fourfold, then let’s embrace this big country of ours and put those extra pilots and support staff out in the desert someplace. You can’t tell me there isn’t an existing facility away from residential communities that could suffice. No jet jobs lost, just the same as it’s been. End of story.