More than 100 people gathered Saturday to declare their support for the Navy on Whidbey Island.
The rally was organized in response to the state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit over the impacts of increased EA-18G Growler training activity on the island.
The crowd gathered on both sides of State Highway 20 and West Pioneer Way in Oak Harbor. They waved American flags and signs with sayings such as, “honk if you love jet noise” or “jets=jobs.”
Many of those present said they saw Attorney General Ferguson’s lawsuit as a direct attack on the Navy and an attempt to curtail activity at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
“He’s not representing all of us, as he stated,” said organizer Morgan Cooper.
Cooper, a Freeland resident, is a member of the Rotary Club of Oak Harbor. She said Ferguson visited the club two weeks before the lawsuit was announced and didn’t mention it.
In the lawsuit, the attorney general’s office argues that the Navy violated the National Environmental Policy Act and Administra-tive Procedure act by not properly monitoring the impact the expanded training with Growlers will have on human health, the environment and historic resources.
“The Navy has an important job, and it’s critical that their pilots and crews have the opportunity to train,” Ferguson said in a statement. “That does not relieve the federal government of its obligation to follow the law and avoid unnecessary harm to our health and natural resources.”
Ferguson contends the Navy ignored input during the environmental impact statement (or EIS) process, during which the state Department of Health provided information about the health impacts of noise similar to that of the jets. In the lawsuit, he is asking a judge to order the Navy to redo its assessment of impacts.
Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns, state Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, and Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, are critical of the lawsuit, arguing it does not represent the majority of Whidbey Island residents.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Arlington, said in July that he included provisions in the House National Defense Authorization Act to conduct real-time noise monitoring around Navy installations, make noise mitigation available for residents near bases and provide funding for engine noise reduction research.
Participants from off island joined the rally after hearing about it on a conservative Seattle radio show.
Bob Eberle, of La Conner, said he thought it was his patriotic duty to attend Saturday. Paul Patterson of Anacortes said, as an Army veteran, he felt compelled to take part as well.