Editorial: Federal agency needs to hear from wide range of voices

No matter how they feel about EA-18G Growlers, Whidbey residents should consider attending a meeting today, Dec. 19, on how an increase in the aircraft may affect historic properties in Central Whidbey.

Those attending should remain civil and stick to the subject at hand, which is historic landscape and structures.

Sound Defense Alliance will likely have a strong presence at the public meeting, hosted by the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, which is gathering input before submitting comments to the secretary of the Navy on possible mitigation for the impact the training flights will have on historic properties.

The ACHP needs to hear from people with differing points of view, including those who may not think Growler noise is such a big deal.

In addition, it’s helpful for people in the community to hear intelligent and heartfelt debate and discussion from their neighbors.

Maybe listening will help people understand each other more when it comes to this divisive issue. It will also be an opportunity for people to hear from Navy officials and the Washington State Historic Preservation Office directly about the issue.

Granted, neither the public meeting nor ACHP comments will likely affect the secretary of the Navy’s final decision on how many Growlers will come to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, nor how the aircraft carrier training flights will be distributed between OLF Coupeville and Ault Field.

The completion of the Environmental Impact Statement was a long and arduous effort that involved gathering input from thousands of residents about a wide range of impacts Growlers may or may not have. It’s that document that is supposed to guide the final decision.

It’s possible for people who are decidedly pro-Growler and believe OLF Coupeville is the best place for vital aircraft carrier training flights to also acknowledge that the noise from the flights will have some impact on a landscape and buildings built long before jet engines.

The Navy has acknowledged this.

The million-dollar question is how much money, or what preservation projects, would represent fair mitigation.

Attend and speak during tonight’s meeting, 5-7 p.m. at the Coupeville High School.