An EA-18G Growler.

An EA-18G Growler.

Growler airfield open house set in Port Townsend

PORT TOWNSEND — Area residents are invited to attend five open house meetings — with one in Port Townsend — set for early December concerning a draft environmental impact statement for EA-18G Growler airfield operations at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Complex.

The first open house — the only to be held on the North Olympic Peninsula — will be from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Fort Worden State Park Conference Center/USO Hall at 200 Battery Way, Port Townsend.

The draft environmental impact statement — which evaluates the potential environmental effects associated with the addition of up to 36 Growler aircraft and the continuation and increase of Growler airfield operations at Ault Field and Outlying Landing Field Coupeville — was released Nov. 10.

The release of the draft EIS began an extended public comment period that lasts 75 days, ending Jan. 25.

The draft EIS is available for review at www.whidbeyeis.com.

In addition, the National Park Service on Nov. 14 released the results of sound studies conducted at Olympic National Park and Ebey’s National Historical Reserve, which is adjacent to OLF.

The reports summarize data collected on natural and man-made sounds in the parks, according to a news release. They identify sound sources that impact the natural environment. The park service will use this baseline information to monitor noise pollution and its effects on visitors and wildlife.

The noise studies conducted by the National Park Service were completed for Olympic National Park in the winter of 2010 and for Ebey’s Landing National Historical Review in the summer of 2015.

The park service will use the data to provide feedback on the Navy’s draft EIS at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

The NPS study of ONP is posted online at http://tinyurl.com/pdn-npsstudy, while the study of Ebey’s National Historical Reserve is posted at http://tinyurl.com/pdn-ebeystudy.

Additional open houses will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at Oak Harbor Elks Lodge, 155 N.E. Ernst St., Oak Harbor; from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 7 at Lopez Center for Community and the Arts, 204 Village Road, Lopez Island; from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 8 at Seafarers’ Memorial Park Building, 601 Seafarers Way, Anacortes; and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 9 at Coupeville High School Commons, 501 S. Main St., Coupeville.

All open houses are free to attend and open to the public.

In addition to comments made at the open houses, the public can submit written comments online at www.whidbeyeis.com or via mail to EA-18G EIS Project Manager, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), Atlantic, Attn: Code EV21/SS, 6506 Hampton Blvd., Norfolk, VA 23508.

All comments must be postmarked or received online no later than Jan. 25.

The draft EIS includes three alternatives, all of which entail an addition of either 35 or 36 additional aircraft to be based at NAS Whidbey Island, according to Navy documents.

This increase will result in a total number of annual operations at the NAS Whidbey Island Complex that is similar to what was seen in the mid-1990s, according to Navy documents.

The Navy previously held two scoping meetings in 2013 and 2014. The draft EIS addresses input from the public from these two scoping periods, according to Navy documents.

Alternatives presented at scoping meetings analyzing fewer additional aircraft than 35 were not carried forward in the draft EIS because Congress has purchased more aircraft than was reflected in those earlier alternatives, according to Navy documents.

Some residents living on Whidbey Island and on the North Olympic Peninsula are concerned the additional jets will be a detriment because of the noise they create.

On Oct. 31, Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve and Concerned Island Citizens filed a formal complaint with the state Board of Health against the health officer and the administrative officer of the Island County Board of Health, charging the officials with failing in their respective duties to obey and enforce Washington’s public health laws aimed at protecting citizens from health harms.

The state Board of Health agreed by unanimous vote during its Nov. 9 meeting to investigate the complaint, according to a news release.

Harmful noise, according to the complaint, is caused by low-flying Navy EA-18G Growler jets that expose people in homes, schools, recreational areas and places of business with noise that causes a host of health harms and exceeds community standards established by the state of Washington, the EPA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the World Health Organization.

The draft EIS includes a study of the noise exposure associated with the additional EA-18G aircraft operations in the vicinity of the complex.

According to the study, a total of 10,090 people living in Island County would be exposed to a day-night average sound level (DNL) of at least 65 decibels by jet operations originating at Ault Field and OLF Coupeville, and extending between 6 and 12 miles from runway endpoints.

Guidelines issues by the Federal Aviation Administration as part of its Airport Noise Compatibility Program establish 65 DNL as the threshold above which aircraft noise is considered to be incompatible with residential areas.

In addition, the FAA has determined that a significant impact occurs if a proposed action would result in an increase of 1.5 DNL or more on any noise-sensitive area within the 65 DNL exposure area.

For more, visit www.whidbeyeis.com.

________

Features Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at cmcdaniel@peninsuladailynews.com.

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