EA-18G Growler Air to Air, VAQ-138 from NAS Whidbey Island, Washington. (U.S. Navy photo)

EA-18G Growler Air to Air, VAQ-138 from NAS Whidbey Island, Washington. (U.S. Navy photo)

Federal judge rejects injunction request against Navy Growlers

A federal judge denied an advocacy group’s request for an injunction that would have required the Navy to decrease EA-18G Growler aircraft operations at the Outlying Field Coupeville.

On March 2, U.S. District Judge Richard Jones filed the two-page order adopting a federal magistrate judge’s prior report and recommendation regarding a preliminary motion for injunction sought by the Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, also known as COER.

The judge also denied COER’s request to supplement the preliminary injunction motion.

The decision wasn’t a surprise, and it doesn’t directly affect the underlying lawsuits by the state Attorney General’s Office and COER, which claim the Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement on an increase in Growlers at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island was inadequate.

In July, Magistrate Judge J. Richard Creature recommended against the injunction in a report that considered the legal issues. He called an injunction “an extreme remedy” that would entangle the court in the Navy’s day-to-day operations.

Creature wrote that the injunction didn’t meet the elements necessary for an injunction. He also noted that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Defense should be given deference in matters of military operations because of the public interest in national security.

COER President Robert Wilbur agreed that the injunction was a longshot because of this Supreme Court ruling, which he said makes it nearly impossible to get an injunction against the military.

“But the landing practice noise has made it so bad and caused so much needless harm and upheaval in the community under the flight pattern, we concluded we had to try,” he said.

The Oak Harbor Council of the Navy League welcomed the decision, noting local elected leaders and the state Attorney General’s Office did not join in the injunction motion. In a statement, the League criticized COER’s motion for an injunction, calling it a rehash of arguments previously rejected by the courts.

“The balance of equities weighed strongly in the Navy’s favor for its national security mission and for OLF Coupeville’s vital contribution to safe aircraft carrier flight operations,” the Navy League’s statement says.

Last month, COER served several federal agencies with a notice of intent to sue under the Endangered Species Act, claiming that a new study on Growler noise penetrating the surface of the water requires the agencies to reconsider biological opinions.