Group plans to seek injunction against Growlers

The group Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve plans to file a motion for a preliminary injunction against the Navy this month in an attempt to restrict EA-18G Growler aircraft flights at the small practice airfield near Coupeville.

The anti-noise group and the state attorney general’s office filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court against the Navy last summer over the noise of the Growlers and the impact expanded operations may have on the areas surrounding Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

The separate actions in federal court have been consolidated into one case.

The lawsuits argue that the Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement was inadequate and incomplete in addressing the effects of more Growlers and more training flights. Under the Navy’s record of decision, the number of operations at the rural Outlying Field Coupeville will increase from 6,000 to 23,700 a year.

Robert Wilbur, president of COER, said “the nuts and bolts” of the injunction haven’t been worked out yet. The group may ask to restrict the Navy to the previous number of flights or even to move the training elsewhere.

A temporary injunction typically prevents a party to a lawsuit from an action while the litigation is in progress.

In July, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office said the office was not considering an injunction.

A federal judge ruled against a preliminary injunction request that COER made in 2015 as part of a lawsuit to compel the Navy to do an Environmental Impact Statement over the increase in Growler flights, which was resolved when the Navy announced plans to do so.

At the time, the judge ruled against the preliminary injunction on the basis that COER had not established a likelihood that the lawsuit would prevail, that COER did not sufficiently demonstrate that residents would suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction and the group failed to show that public interest weighs in its favor.

This time, however, the group has the attorney general’s office on its side, as well as comments from thousands of citizens and the state Department of Health about the health impacts of noise similar to that of the Growlers.

In September, attorneys representing 24 individuals also filed a class action lawsuit in federal court that seeks damages from the Navy over Growler practice.

A spokesman for NAS Whidbey said it would be inappropriate to comment on any hypothetical or pending litigation.

OLF Coupeville has been inactive for the past couple of months because of required maintenance, which has been completed. Training flights there are resuming based on deployment needs.

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