Town says Navy jet noise area of impact not large enough

Coupeville Town Council members asserted that the Navy should consider areas near the Central Whidbey touch-and-go field as “directly impacted” by jet noise.

Coupeville Town Council members asserted that the Navy should consider areas near the Central Whidbey touch-and-go field as “directly impacted” by jet noise.

After initially withholding comment, the town council last month responded to the Navy’s request for input on how jet noise at OLF Coupeville affects historic properties. The Navy made the request as part of the Environmental Impact Statement study which is required with the switch to EA-18G Growler jets.

In the letter, town officials say they feel, based on the information provided, the current method of defining the Area of Potential Effect, or APE, doesn’t appear to cover a large enough area.

“We strongly disagree with defining the area around OLF Coupeville as ‘indirectly affected,’” the letter states. “We feel Central Whidbey and a large portion of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve should be classified as ‘directly affected’ by jet noise.”

Town Council first discussed the request from the Navy for comment during an Aug. 9 council workshop. During that workshop, council members said they were confused by the wording of the request and did not understand the complexities of the data they were being provided to comment on, especially since they were being provided old data.

After some further research, Mayor Molly Hughes said she felt comfortable enough to formulate some kind of comment by the requested Sept. 1 deadline and drafted a letter on behalf of the council for their review.

In the letter, Hughes wrote the council members didn’t feel they could provide complete input for the EIS because the noise contour maps provided are small and without detail; they did not fully understand the Day-Night Average Sound Level, or DNL, to determine the APE; and that the APE provided were based on 2005 noise data.

“Until noise data is updated, we won’t know how it will affect the noise contours,” they wrote.

Town leaders also said they feel increased electronic attack operations and Growler training flights will expand and increase the area of potential effect. The town’s comments are specifically in relation to Section 106, which deals with the impact on historic properties, Hughes said.

“We support and encourage the adaptive reuse of historic properties to help the owners financially maintain and preserve their buildings,” the letter states. “Some of the more successful reuses of historic buildings in Central Whidbey have been bed and breakfasts and event venues. Agriculture is also an important part of the historic landscape of the reserve.”

“All three of these businesses, and therefore, the historic resource have been negatively affected by jet noise.”

Council members said they also question the noise level measurements used to determine the APE.

“There are over 300 historic buildings in Central Whidbey and all of Ebey’s Reserve is listed as a historic district,” they wrote. “Many of the effected historic properties, buildings and landscapes are outside of your defined APE. This would indicate to us the 65dB DNL is not an adequate noise measurement.”