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January 17, 2020

7/17/2019 1:22:00 PM
From the editor - Grounding the Growlers
Ken Stern

Who are the patriots and the heroes: the guys with guns and blue uniforms, more so in Washington, D.C. than Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, or Washington state’s skinny attorney general and the Citizens of Ebey Reserve who got Bob Ferguson’s attention and gained him as their ally? The right political cartoonist will draw Ferguson as David with his slingshot taking on the U.S. Navy, Goliath. Ferguson and COER filed lawsuits July 9 in federal court, halting at least temporarily the Navy’s plans to add 36 EA-18G Growler aircraft at the base.
For over four years the Navy has moved ahead with plans to add Growlers and increase take-offs and landings by a dramatic “100,000 per year for the next 30 years,” as the Sound Defense Alliance puts it in last week’s press release. Objectively speaking, the Navy failed as a good neighbor and collaborator, its defiance’s defining moment leaving negotiations with a bevy of local, state and federal organizations instead of reaching an agreement for researching and mitigating the jets’ noise last November.
Ferguson, acting for us citizens as the state’s lawyer, and COER, a Coupeville area citizens’ organization, have a Martin Luther length list of the Navy’s failure to comply with federal law: the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. For good measure, COER has also sued because documents were not fully provided under Freedom of Information Act requests.
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.
The closer one examines the Navy’s inability to take seriously researching and documenting the breadth and depth of the impact the Growlers have on our complex, fragile ecosystem, the more one is left wondering what our military is protecting and why it is indifferent to disruption of life for fellow U.S. citizens.
And, not only are orcas and salmon threatened, but so is another endangered species, the marbled murrelet, a small seabird.
Most troubling are the intangibles: the truth and the rule of law. The Navy’s filing of seriously deficient Environmental Impact Statements brings to mind the star athlete who doesn’t study and expects to pass exams based on his connections. When the biggest player on the block has its sworn purpose to protect and serve and yet does not adequately research and prepare reports stating the consequences of throwing its weight around, citizens feel they are confronted and offended instead of respected and defended.
If we have to destroy villages in order to save them, maybe the mission needs to change. Maybe our policy needs to be to leave the villages alone, let them be in peace.
Peace. Now there is a novel idea.

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