Two lawsuits were filed July 9 against the U.S. Navy’s expansion of Growler jet operations at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Attorney General Bob Ferguson, for the state of Washington, asserts a failed environmental review process for the expansion which “unlawfully failed to measure the impacts to public health and wildlife in communities on and around Whidbey Island” and historic properties on the Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve, according to a press release from his office.

The Citizens of Ebey Reserve filed suit the same day, also under the National Environmental Policy Act, alleging that the Navy violated NEPA in numerous ways.
Relief sought in these lawsuits includes a preliminary injunction to halt the Growler expansion and for an order requiring the Navy to withdraw its Record of Decision and to prepare a supplemental draft EIS that corrects all deficiencies to bring it in compliance with NEPA.
By presidential executive order federal agencies must conduct environmental reviews. Historical properties come under the auspices of Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, The Navy filed an ROD declining to follow almost all the Council’s recommendations in March.
The COER press release asserts five major issues, including a failure to “to examine alternative locations to basing the additional Growlers at NAS Whidbey.” Their lawsuit claims the Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement did not meet the threshold of “ensur[ing] the professional and scientific integrity of its analysis. The lawsuit alleges the Navy “segmented its decision-making process to minimize and avoid assessing cumulative impacts, thereby depriving the public and elected officials from adequately assessing Navy plans.” The assessment is properly regional in scope, beyond the Salish Sea. COER states that the Growler study needed to be incorporated into the Northwest Training and Testing EIS and include “all airspace, land and coastal marine environments from Northern California to the Canadian border.”
Ferguson is quoted in his press release calling for the Navy “to follow the law and avoid unnecessary harm to our health and natural resources.”
The state’s lawsuit asserts the “Navy arbitrarily dismissed impacts to human health and child learning from increased noise,” failed to analyze harm to wildlife and “did not consider reasonable measures to provide” protection to the 17,000 acre Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve, including how noise levels would “spoil the rural character of the reserve” including effects on tourists.
The lawsuits were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Washington state claims the federal Administrative Procedure Act was also violated by the Navy’s flawed analysis of the impact of Growler expansion.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Everett) said: “I will continue to work in Congress to address the impacts of jet noise on local communities. The House NDAA includes provisions I authored to conduct real-time noise monitoring around Navy installations, make noise mitigation available for homes near bases and increase budget authority for engine noise reduction research.”
Paula Spina spoke for COER on the phone from Coupeville Monday. She said, “This was months in the works; COER has been working with the attorney general’s office since the Record of Decision in March. We thought we were leading the process but about three weeks ago the attorney general looked at it and took the lead.”
Spina praised Ferguson, saying “He is the first one to stand up for the people and the environment. This is a public health crisis. Sound is a public health disease.”
COER’s mission is “to protect the health and welfare of the inhabitants of the region, including the marine, migratory and endangered species, and to preserve the historic northwest communities being threatened by military jet training flights.”
The Sound Defense Alliance applauded the lawsuits. In their press release, Maryon Atwood, legislative committee chair, stated “Across the State our elected officials are listening.” She claims, “an immediate and severe impact on the people of NW Washington” from the Growler expansion, which she counts increasing “Growler take-offs and landings to nearly 100,000 per year for the next 30 years.”
The SDA’s mission is to defend our communities and natural environment from harmful impacts of military activity around the Salish Sea, the Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula.”
In May the National Parks Conservation Association filed a lawsuit against the Navy for its failure to fulfill Freedom of Information Act requests, claiming the Navy improperly withheld documents and conducted an inadequate search. On July 8 COER filed a similar suit over documents withheld.
The Navy’s policy has been to not comment on pending litigation.
The July 9 Washington Post printed that day’s Associated Press story on that day’s lawsuits.