Navy to conduct real-time noise monitoring on Whidbey

Federal, state and county officials who want the Navy to conduct real-world noise monitoring of aircraft on Whidbey Island will get their way.

The Navy finalized a Real Time Aircraft Noise Monitoring Plan last week that selected Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, including Outlying Field Coupeville, as one of the two bases where the sound measurements will take place.

Government officials and residents have long urged the Navy to do real-world measurements of the noise from EA-18G Growler jets, especially near OLF Coupeville. The Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement for an increase in Growlers at the base and training flights at the outlying field included only computer modeling.

Navy officials resisted real-world monitoring, saying it’s unnecessary and that the Navy has noise-monitoring tools and software approved by the Department of Defense that accurately predicts noise.

Congress, however, is requiring the Navy to conduct real-time measurements at no fewer than two Navy installations on the West Coast. U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Arlington, and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell included amendments for the on-the-ground noise tracking in the National Defense Authorization Act.

The plan states that the Navy chose NAS Whidbey as a monitoring location due to local interest in the issue and because of the varying topography. In addition to NAS Whidbey, monitoring will occur at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.

The plan states that a Navy team will collect data “during periods of high, medium and low flight activity in increments over a 12-month period.”

“Sound will be measured at discrete monitoring locations along and in the vicinity of department and arrival flight paths,” the plan states, “and also include areas overflown by tactical fighter aircraft.”

During seven-day monitoring periods, the plan states, the Navy teams will place at least 10 sound level meters at predetermined locations along and in the vicinity of the flight paths.

The data will be used to assess the accuracy of the Department of Defense’s aircraft noise modeling tool and the accuracy of the “noise contours” at the two bases. The contours are supposed to show the areas where different level of noise will occur.

The plans calls for four monitoring periods over the next year. The final report is due to Congress in the summer of 2021.

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