In response to the proposed increased number of Growler planes and training flights, residents of Whidbey Island have proposed scaling back their numbers, or relocating them, for many important reasons: unhealthy levels of noise, reduction of available housing, safety issues near populated area with schools and hospitals, decreased property values and invasion of the quiet, natural experience of Deception Pass, public beaches and historic areas of Island County.
There are two other important issues I believe should be considered by the U.S. Navy decision makers in advancing their mission to defend our nation. The first issue concerns the unique infrastructure challenges of an island in the event of a natural disaster. Our recent power outage experience should be a wake-up call highlighting this concern. Imagine if we and the Naval base experience a prolonged lack of water, electricity, and the loss of Deception Pass Bridge due to an extreme windstorm, earthquake or tsunami.
Scientists have warned that we are overdue for a large scale natural disaster. A subduction of the Juan de Fuca plate up against the North American plate would cause a tsunami-driven wall of water likely to be tens or even hundreds of feet higher than any structure at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
A second issue for this island-located base is vulnerability to a terrorist attack. The Deception Pass Bridge, our only road exit on or off Whidbey, is old and vulnerable to those bent on destruction. Much of the island water supply comes from a pipe under the bridge. In addition, the Navy base is located near heavily traveled public roads, impossible to monitor for bad actors, and it is bordered by accessible navigable waters.
One of the Navy’s first considerations in locating facilities or expanding an operation should be its vulnerability to events that could curtail or eliminate its operations. It seems logical to me that a more sparsely populated area less vulnerable to natural disasters and easier to guard against attack would be a high priority in siting new or expanded training facilities.