Town hiring consultant for independent review of EIS

Coupeville Town Council approved a request last week to hire two consultants to review and analyze the Navy’s draft Environmental Impact Statement on jets that practice at a nearby runway.

After looking over the document himself, Town Planner Owen Dennison said he reached out to a former colleague who has experience with this kind of study. She put him in touch with a noise specialist and both have agreed to work together to help the town provide comments on the draft EIS by the Jan. 25 deadline.

The draft study looks at the environmental impacts of an increase in the number of EA-18G Growlers at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Growlers pilots practice aircraft carrier landings at Outlying Field Coupeville.

Dennison presented his idea to Town Council last week. The plan, he said, is to have the noise specialist specifically look at the jet noise data while the other consultant will do a general review for compliance of the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as other areas of importance identified by the council.

The noise specialist’s charges $280 an hour. The other consultant’s rate is $175 per hour.

“It is possible we could hire a consultant to peer review it and find nothing wrong with it,” Dennison said. “The benefit is unknown. This could be our best and only opportunity to influence the process.”

Dennison said the noise consultant would be looking at the noise data and model to verify the data is correct and and to determine if the appropriate model was used. What would be provided is a response letter with analysis material identifying any issues.

The Town Council agreed that the review would be a good idea.

“Having this kind of professional analysis that’s not biased in any way is kind of like having the state do our water analysis,” Councilwoman Catherine Ballay said. “There’s a lot of information out there that’s fueled by emotion.”

Councilmembers approved a proposed special services agreement with the two consultants, with an expense not to exceed $14,900. The town would have to advertise for bids if the contract was more than $15,000.

“It’s a no-brainer for me,” Councilwoman Jackie Henderson said. “It’s sort of our duty to put together as much information as possible.”

The council members also had scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday of this week to further discuss the areas of the EIS they want the consultant to focus on.