Group suing Navy for not producing requested Growler documents

An environmental group is suing the Navy in federal court for refusing to adequately fulfill Freedom of Information Act requests regarding EA-18G Growlers from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island flying over the Olympic National Park, which is considered one of the quietest places in the country, according to the lawsuit.

The National Parks Conservation Association filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Seattle May 2 for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming the Navy improperly withheld documents and conducted an inadequate search.

The organization is asking the court to order the Navy to promptly conduct a new search and furnish it with all responsive documents not legally exempted. Also, the organization wants the Navy to pay costs and attorneys’ fees related to the three-year search for documents.

The Navy has been conducting an analysis of environmental impacts of jet training exercises over the Olympic Peninsula, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Navy recently released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, opening a public comment period for increased operations over the peninsula through 2025.

The National Parks Conservation Association’s concern is about the effect the noise from the Growlers will have on wildlife and visitors in the Olympics.

In order to understand the environmental impacts, the organization filed a Freedom of Information Act request in 2016 for any and all documents about impacts, analyses and communications between agencies about exercises in the Olympic Peninsula.

The group sent near-identical requests to other agencies and received thousands of documents in response, but the Navy produced only 158 pages. The National Parks Conservation Association went through two administrative appeals and two remands to the Navy to fully respond — and submitted another request — but it “still has not received the vast majority of the records in the Navy’s possession,” according to the lawsuit.

“Unfortunately, the Navy has forced us to go to court due to their failure to provide the documentation necessary for NPCA and the public to make informed comments on the impacts of their latest proposal,” Rob Smith, Northwest regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association, said in a press release. “We recognize the Navy’s training needs, but also value the importance of preserving natural sights and sounds for visitors and wildlife at one of the quietest places in America, the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park.”

The latest proposal from the Navy could increase the number of flights over the Olympics to 5,000 per year, according to the group.

A Navy spokesperson said the Navy could not comment on pending litigation.

The National Parks Conservation Association is represented by the Earthrise Law Center at the Lewis & Clark Law School, along with Smith & Lowney PLLC.

More in News

Photo by Olivia Vanni/Herald file
                                Cars full of passengers headed to Whidbey Island pull into the ferry lines in Mukilteo on June 26.
Ferry ride isn’t a pleasure cruise in COVID-19 summer of 2020

Fewer boats mean longer waits on weekends. No more frolicking on the boat.

Council in a jam over sandwich boards

Langley officials decided to temporarily suspend an ordinance prohibiting the display of… Continue reading

New wheels add shine to grooming biz

The newest addition to Oak Harbor’s grooming salon Posh Puppies may have… Continue reading

Oak Harbor facing vacancies in key positions

The city of Oak Harbor has recently experienced some major staff turnover… Continue reading

Baby deer shot, injured by pellet gun in Coupeville

A baby deer was shot and injured by a pellet gun last… Continue reading

“Rogue Sheep” trespass in yard | Island Scanner

THURSDAY, JULY 9 At 1:07 a.m., a Goss Lake Road resident reported… Continue reading

Coupeville woman, 75, injured one-car crash Aug. 2

A 75-year-old Coupeville woman was seriously injured in a crash in Central… Continue reading

Island Drug moves back to Clinton

Nearly a month after closing the doors to its Ken’s Korner location,… Continue reading

Suspect crashes car while trying to flee State Patrol

An Oak Harbor man is accused of leading a Washington state trooper… Continue reading

Most Read