City council condemns state’s attorney general for Growler lawsuit

The Oak Harbor City Council is officially disappointed in the state attorney general.

Members of the council passed a resolution Wednesday condemning state Attorney General Bob Ferguson for filing a federal lawsuit against the Navy. It claims the Navy’s environmental study of the noise impacts from an increase in EA-18G Growler aircraft training was insufficient, as were mitigation efforts.

The resolution passed unanimously and without comment by councilmembers. Councilman Rick Almberg and Councilwoman Tara Hizon were absent.

The resolution catalogs all the ways the Navy base benefits the community, according to the city. It states that the base is vital to the economy, with 10,000 jobs and a contribution of “$1.04 billion directly to the Island County economy in wages paid to military personnel,” as well as the proliferation of veterans in the community who receive benefits and spend money locally.

In addition, the community appreciated the Navy for what it represents and does for the nation.

“Oak Harbor City Council, mayor, and citizens are indebted to the sacrifices made by the military personnel of the United States of America and their families, and in particular those of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island,” the resolution states.

The resolution states that the Navy’s six-year environmental study was more than thorough and efforts the Navy made to mitigate impacts are considerable.

“The Navy takes its commitment to the environment seriously and from 2004 to 2014 expended $270 million dollars for marine mammal research and conservation,” the resolution states.

Ferguson filed the federal lawsuit in July. He argues that the Navy violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act by not properly analyzing the impact an increase in Growlers will have on human health, the environment and historic resources. The Navy is planning a fourfold increase at Outlying Field Coupeville in the amount of aircraft carrier landing practice, which is vital to the safety of the Growler aircrews.

Ferguson will ask a judge to order the Navy to redo the process, or part of the process, of assessing the impacts.

In a statement sent to the News-Times Thursday, Ferguson said he supports the Navy and it’s critical mission; he points out that his father was in the Navy.

“However, that does not relieve the federal government of its legal obligation to thoroughly consider the potential harm to our health and natural resources that its training may pose,” he said in the statement. “The Navy’s review unlawfully failed to adequately measure the potential impacts to public health and wildlife on Whidbey Island.”

Ferguson has been involved in 44 lawsuits against the federal government since January 2017. He won 13 outright, eight others were victories that have been appealed or could be appealed, and the rest are still in process. He has lost none.

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