By Rhea Y. Miller
In response to the guest column by Steve Bristow, I find his information inaccurate and misleading. As a homeowner, a 42% increase in all landing practices, a 25% increase in all Growler operations, and a 288% increase in ear-splitting operations at Outlying Field Coupeville (OLF) is massive. According to renowned economics researcher Michael H. Shuman in “Invisible Costs: The $122 Million Price Tag for The Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, ” (February 2017), the Navy’s presence, including the impact of the Growlers, over the period 2010 and 2021, will cost Island County alone about $122 million.
Shuman explained how over the period “the County is losing $5.7 million per year in sales and property taxes that it would otherwise collect from employees of an equivalently sized private industry. Compared to private sector jobs, Navy jobs yield relatively small economic impact. The conversion of existing Navy jobs to civilian jobs would create 3,909 additional jobs (beyond the converted jobs), expand the economy by $503 million, and generate $153 million more in taxes (mostly to state and local government).” I know that Island County is scrambling to find housing and expand schools to meet the demand of increased Growler personnel at taxpayer expense.
Moreover, “the E-18 Growler aircraft has exposed more than 11,000 residents to harmful levels of noise. An economic assessment model used to assess every high-noise project in the United Kingdom suggests that the health costs to Island County residents are currently $2.8 million per year, and will grow to $3.3 million if the Growler program expands as planned. Additionally, the program has depressed property values by $9.8 million thus far, and this damage will almost certainly grow as that program expands as planned.”
Unlike Bristow’s portrayal, we know that wildlife is severely impacted by noise, including the spotted owl, the marbled murrelet, and Orca whales. Referring to the EIS Vol. 1, starting on page 4-342, it states “Conclusion: “The proposed action may adversely affect the marbled murrelet.” Referring to Title 10 US Code 35 Section 1536, this makes it possible for the Secretary of Defense to request an exemption from the Endangered Species Committee citing “reasons of national security” and we are required to issue an exemption. Only the military can take a species to extinction.
Tourists at Deception Pass and on Lopez Island come for a first time visit and then vow to never return when the Growlers are flying. I personally know several people who leave their homes and decline guests while the Growlers are flying. People are selling their treasured homes on south Lopez due to the overflights.
As a fan of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, I find it all being squashed by the Growler presence in the entire region, including its electronic warfare training over the quietest place on earth, the Olympic National Park. Rather than the Northwest continuing to be a rare place in the world for peace, beauty, and quiet, we are an invasive training ground for war.