Citizens ask federal court for injunction for Growlers

The U.S. Navy is being taken back into federal court by citizens seeking an injunction to halt the “ongoing and irreparable injury” from the “noise assault” created by the EA-18G Growler attack jets based at Whidbey Naval Air Station.

Submitted by Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve

The U.S. Navy is being taken back into federal court by citizens seeking an injunction to halt the “ongoing and irreparable injury” from the “noise assault” created by the EA-18G Growler attack jets based at Whidbey Naval Air Station. The controversial Growlers are the loudest jets ever to fly and are the source of increasing noise complaints throughout Puget Sound.

The Motion for Preliminary Injunction was filed today in the United States District Court, Western District at Seattle by the Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve for a Healthy, Safe and Peaceful Environment.  It is supported by declarations of victims and experts describing a host of ongoing injuries suffered by residents living near the Navy’s Outlying Field in Coupeville.

The OLF is used for repetitive touch-and-go Field Carrier Landing Practice operations where Growlers fly a few hundred feet over the rooftops of more than 600 homes and over 1,200 residents, including many children. The homes are located in the undesignated ‘Accident Potential Zone’ where Growler flight paths are low enough for residents to see the pilots’ faces and cross directly over Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve, County Recycling, Island Transportation Center, two major nonprofit facilities, farms, and schools.

“We are turning to the court because the Navy is knowingly harming the very people it is sworn to protect,” said Ken Pickard, a COER board member and plaintiff. “It is shameful and intolerable that the Navy has turned our community into a sacrifice zone with the weapons we pay for.” To justify the reprehensible impacts on our community, the Navy has turned a blind eye to actions and comments among its personnel and retirees who have frequently called those affected citizens unpatriotic. It’s quite the opposite”, concluded Pickard, “we all care deeply.”

COER’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction is supported by the declaration of an acoustic engineering firm that measured actual noise levels in the vicinity of the OLF. Those noise levels, which are uncontested by the Navy, exceed community noise standards established by the State of Washington, the EPA, and the World Health Organization.

The declaration of Dr. James Dahlgren, a Diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine, Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Toxicology, states,

“The noise from the Navy’s Growler aircraft landing and taking off from Outlying Landing Field Coupeville, Washington is causing and has caused serious adverse health effects in the residents as described in the thirteen declarations of residents living near the field. As predicted from hundreds of scientific studies of health effects from noise at the levels measured near the OLF Coupeville by JGL Acoustics in 2013, such levels of noise pressure are causing insomnia, anxiety, depression, impaired concentration, hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), hypertension, worsening diabetes, gastrointestinal difficulties and a major decrement in quality of life.”

The declaration of a treating physician states, “with reasonable medical certainty, subsequent to the introduction of the EA18G Growler Aircraft at OLF Coupeville,” that a patient’s health “seriously declined” with Growlers flying “a couple hundred feet high” creating an “extreme amount of stress and exacerbating health problems that include anxiety/depression and sleep disturbance.”  The declaration of an advanced practice nurse specializing in occupational and environmental health for over twenty-five states in her “professional opinion” that nighttime operations at the OLF are “exquisitely exacerbating the stress reaction which causes a cascade of health effects listed.”

“We are extremely disappointed with our elected officials who won’t speak out on behalf of those they purport to represent,” said COER Board Member, Maryon Attwood.  “Congressman Rick Larsen, who takes credit for bringing the Growlers to Whidbey Island, supports the Navy’s use of the OLF even though he admits to never having heard the Growler noise experienced by the community.” COER President, Michael Monson, stated, “Larsen has ignored repeated invitations to visit our homes and experience the noise that is destroying our health and quality of life.”  County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, representing the District where the OLF is located, has not weighed in on halting the noise while impacts to citizens are assessed.  Commissioner Jill Johnson, from Oak Harbor, has publicly called for the continued use of the OLF, even though she has admitted that the noise is nothing like the ‘sound of freedom’ heard in her district. Although thousands of calls have been made to Senators Murray and Cantwell, their representatives have said only that they are ‘following’ the issue.  This injunction is the result of citizens stepping up to protect other citizens, since public leaders have failed to lead.

The Navy began Growler operations after conducting a limited and flawed “Environmental Assessment” that falsely predicted Growlers would be fewer and generate less noise than the jets previously used.  The Navy began preparing a required and more thorough Environmental Impact Statement in 2013, but only after being sued by COER and after the noisier Growlers had flown thousands of operations in excess of the number predicted.

Today’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction seeks to halt Growler operations at the OLF until the Environmental Impact Statement is completed and the potential health and environmental impacts of Growler operations are assessed – not after irreparable harms have occurred. Although the Navy insists the OLF is “essential” to national security, it was not used for eight months in 2013 during which time Growler training was conducted elsewhere. A number of other equally viable training sites exist that the Navy has refused to credibly pursue, even though they should realize that using the OLF cannot continue.

The U.S. Department of The Navy Admiral Bill Gortney, in his official capacity as the Commander, Fleet Forces Command; and Commander Mike Nortier, in his official capacity as Commander Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, are identified as Defendants in the Motion.