Washington lawsuit Navy jets

171204-N-WX604-0231 OAK HARBOR, Wash. (Dec. 4, 2017) Lt. Joel Stevens, from Fruitland Id., assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 142, the Gray Wolves, returns to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island during a two day fly-in, December 4-5. The Gray Wolves completed a six-month deployment, operating in U.S. 5th Fleet, with Carrier Air Wing 11 onboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 77). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph E. Montemarano/Released)

Politicians Try to Ban ‘Noisy’ Navy Jets ― Find Out Citizens Love the ‘Sound of Freedom’

Some local officials in Washington have come out against a state lawsuit opposing the expansion of  jet operations at the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. 

While the lawsuit has raised concerns about increased noise from air traffic, the officials said that most local residents value the Navy enough to tolerate the roaring overhead. Or as the Navy Times put it Friday, “They want to hear the sound of Freedom!”

Last month, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that Washington was filing a lawsuit against the Navy over its plans to add up to three dozen EA-18G Growler jets to the 82 already based on the island, north of Seattle.

“The Navy has an important job, and it’s critical that their pilots and crews have the opportunity to train,” Ferguson said in the statement. “That does not relieve the federal government of its obligation to follow the law and avoid unnecessary harm to our health and natural resources.”

On Tuesday, though, the Skagit Valley Herald reported that Bob Severns, the mayor of nearby Oak Harbor, penned a letter to the attorney general condemning the state’s lawsuit as unjustifiable and a waste of resources

According to Severns, his time spent campaigning door-to-door led him to believe the majority of residents have no complaints with the Navy or its jets.

Washington lawsuit over Navy jets could cost jobs

The mayor further warned that the state’s lawsuit threatens the continued growth ― and maybe even presence ― of the Whidbey Island Navy base, which he noted is the largest employer in his county.

“Your action could also adversely affect future Navy decisions, which could cripple the economy in our Pacific Northwest and leave us without the protection and support that we value as a community and a state,” he said.

If the state is truly worried about noise from the new jets, Severns added, it could have objected during the six years the Navy spent preparing an Environmental Impact Statement.

Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson echoed Severns. She told the Herald that she had heard overwhelming support for the Navy from residents. 

“The planes can be irritating, but the mission is of a much higher value to everyone I talk to,” she said, calling dissenters as a vocal minority.
Johnson also said that the Navy base accounts for about 70 percent of the country’s economy and that chasing it away could be ruinous. “What health impacts outweigh the impacts of people losing their jobs?” she asked.
According to Johnson, Ferguson only filed suit against the Navy in an attempt at “pandering” to donors who he hopes will fund a planned bid for governor next year.

“The sound of freedom”

However, Helen Price Johnson, another country commissioner, dismissed the backlash to the lawsuit as overblown. She told the Herald that that the suit is not a threat to the Navy’s growth, but only seeks to make sure it thoroughly studies the impacts its activities could have on the region.
“This isn’t a question of whether we support the Navy,” she said. “It’s a question about process.”
“All [it is] doing is making the Navy follow the rules like any other agency,” she said.
The second Johnson acknowledged that most residents are unbothered by the jet noise because they do not live along the flight path. But she said she was looking out for those who do.
“If you happen to be in that path, it’s like living near an aircraft carrier,” she said.
In announcing the planned expansion in March, the Navy said aircraft activity at Outlying Field Coupeville would grow from 90 to 360 hours, or about 100,000 takeoffs and landings per year.

Washington isn’t the only state where planned military flyovers have raised concerns about noise. When the Air Force in February announced upcoming low-altitude training drills over sparsely populated areas of Michigan’s upper Thumb region, residents worried that their quiet communities would be disturbed.

However, in many cases, locals support the training that goes on in their community, recognizing that bases serve the country and provide jobs. Residents of Lawton, Oklahoma, reportedly consider it an honor to host the noisy artillery of the Army’s Ft. Sill, which “regularly shatters windows, glasses and vases, and rocks pictures off kilter.”

Old-timers have reportedly learned to tune out the noise of the firing cannons. Like the Navy Times, they call it “the sound of freedom.”

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