U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen wants the Navy to rethink a proposed fourfold increase in the number of EA-18G Growler aircraft practices at a small Central Whidbey airfield.
He is also urging the Navy to work with Congress to increase Department of Defense Impact Aid for the Oak Harbor School District, fund a program to pay for sound insulation in private homes affected by aircraft noise and increase funding into noise mitigation on the aircraft.
Larsen, a Democrat from Arlington, recently sent Navy Secretary Richard Spencer a letter outlining his concerns about the Navy’s “preferred alternative” for Growler operations at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and making suggestions for mitigating the impact on the community.
The Navy released the final Environmental Impact Statement on Growler activities at NAS Whidbey on Sept. 28. The final decision on which of the alternatives identified in the document will be made by the Secretary of the Navy or his representative no earlier than 30 days after the final EIS is made public.
Under the Navy’s preferred alternative, the number of Growlers will increase by 36 and the total number of field carrier landing practice operations will increase to 29,600 a year, with 80 percent occurring at OLF Coupeville and 20 percent at the Ault Field base on North Whidbey.
The number of operations is 30 percent less than it would have been if the Navy hadn’t been able to decrease the amount of training necessary by cutting the number of pilots and utilizing a technology that helps pilots land.
Central Whidbey residents and other across the area have protested against the noisy flights and the proposed increase, which many feel will have a devastating impact on their quality of life.
In his letter, Larsen noted that the preferred alternative is a reversal of the historic trend in distribution of flights between OLF Coupeville and Ault Field. He wrote that the average number of practice operations at OLF Coupeville since 1976 is 12,925 a year, or 35 a day, and the preferred alternative will mean 23,700 operations a year, which is 65 a day.