NO MORE JETS - NO MORE FLIGHTS - Sound Defense Alliance's meeting in Crockett Barn outside of Coupeville last Friday filled the space. Successful organizing meetings turn into pep rallies and this one did. They raised hands, funds and recruited volunteers in their campaign to get the U.S. Navy to reverse their decision to bring 36 Growler jets to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. - Photo courtesy David Medley
COUPEVILLE — The U.S. Navy is moving full steam ahead to bring 36 EA-18G Growler aircraft to its Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, having rejected every request for studies, mitigation and citizen collaboration to reduce jet noise. Friday night 350 area citizens and members of the Sound Defense Alliance crowded into Crockett Barn, near the Whidbey Island shore west of Coupeville. Annie Jesperson, a farmer, tapped the energy of the sympathetic audience getting them to stand and raise their hands as she polled them on the current impacts of jet flights. Her litany started with bothersome noise while people worked at home, continued to not being able to sleep, then to worries about selling their homes to frequent blood pressure raising. Her last statement: “If you are ready to keep fighting to save our community,” brought cheers, clapping and foot stomping. Speakers had five major themes: 1. “This is a marathon and not a sprint.” 2. The goal is “real noise monitoring.” 3. The issue is regional, reaching from Seattle to Vancouver. 4. “Base” support is strong. 5. The strategy is “mobilize up,” starting with local elected support, extending to county commissioners and state legislators to gain action from “federal electeds.” U.S. Reps Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer and Adam Smith and U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patsy Murray are already involved. SDA steering committee member Chris Hurley asked the crowd to reflect on their success in getting Gov. Jay Inslee “to stand up and say no to the military. That’s incredible.” Rep. Larsen now supports “real noise monitoring” and the Seattle Times cartoonist has raised the issue on the paper’s editorial page, she said. Island Country Commissioner Helen Price Johnson spoke, praising “the Sound Defense Alliance’s emphasis on facts” and the value of their data mining, providing her with documentation. She also thanked the state’s Senators and area representatives and elected officials from San Juan, Jefferson and Skagit counties. Expanding a commercial airport requires sitting monitors that the Navy is exempt from and refusing to do, she said. Valerie Reuther, co-owner of nearby Rosehip Farm and granddaughter of Victor Reuther, pioneering automotive labor union leader, coached the crowd to mail postcards on their chairs to congressional representatives. “We need people a little or a lot more involved,” she told them. “We have 1,000 people. We need 10,000.” She named a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, from the media team through fundraising.
The Sound Defense Alliance is taking the route of diplomacy, she said, while possible legal action will be led by Citizens of Ebey Reserve. Reuther made a pitch for organizers in Anacortes and Port Townsend to work with elected officials. “It’s all about the base,” she said, repeating the evening’s mantra. It’s also about money. Asking them to be generous, she explained the Alliance needed $50,000 to conduct a feasibility study and pay an organizer. They had raised $30,000 in December at the meeting at the local high school she said. “These are places I love,” she said, naming Puget Sound and Whidbey Island. Someone called out “Skagit County.” The meeting ended with baskets passed among the seated audience to collect both donations and postcards that would be mailed to congressional representatives.