Letter pleads for reduction in potential flights at OLF

Coupeville Town Council voted Tuesday to approve a letter that Mayor Molly Hughes wrote to Congressman Rick Larsen and to U.S. senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.

The letter is an appeal for the politicians’ intervention regarding the Navy’s plan to expand EA-18G Growler field carrier landing practices south of Coupeville.

The impact of the proposed plan would create a disproportionate hardship for the small community of Coupeville, Hughes states in the letter.

The Navy’s Final Environmental Impact Statement is nearing release.

“My hope is that (the politicians) will try to intercede on our behalf to get the number of FCLP’s at OLF Coupeville decreased before the decision is made formal,” Hughes said in an email.

“We are hoping for a 20 percent to 30 percent increase over current levels, not the 288 percent increase the Navy is proposing.”

The letter describes negative consequences to Coupeville tourism should landing practices increase significantly. It also describes safety concerns.

The letter states that the council believes the majority of Coupeville residents don’t want to see Naval Air Station Whidbey Island go away and that the majority of them support OLF Coupeville and the pilot training it provides. It also points out that Oak Harbor receives most of the benefits from having a Navy base on the island, so the majority of the carrier landing training should happen in Oak Harbor as well.

“We believe the citizens of Central Whidbey would accept an increase in operations at OLF if it is proportional and necessary,” the letter states.

Several mitigation ideas are proposed in the letter, including “no-fly weekends,” to keep Friday nights, Saturday and Sundays quiet, funding for sound-attenuating retrofits to Central Whidbey buildings, and funding to purchase property from property owners who need to leave the area because of significant noise increases.

The Navy first identified its plan to expand EA-18G Growler field carrier landing practices in a “preferred alternative” in June.

The plan would increase current activity at Outlying Field Coupeville fourfold.

Currently, there are about 6,000 “operations” at the OLF Coupeville and it would increase to 23,700 operations.

An operation includes both taking off and landing.

The plan adds 36 new Growler jets, and 80 percent of the landing practice would occur at OLF Coupeville and the remaining 30 percent at NAS Whidbey’s Ault Field base on North Whidbey.

Hughes said she already met with aides for Cantwell, Larsen and Murray and the letter is “simply a more formal way of asking for specific mitigation and for their intervention.”

If adopted, the transition to increased landing practices would begin in 2019 and be completed in 2022.

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