May 16, 2017 – If you think it was loud before, wait until 40 more Growlers arrive, bringing the totals to 157 or 160, not the 118 they’ve been telling us about. This new order is on top of the 36 jets that were just evaluated in a draft EIS (Environmental Impact Statement.) The next 40 probably won’t be given the EIS treatment because the only reason the Navy did a full EIS for the last 36 is because they were sued by citizens who wanted a fair public process. Piecemealing, via at least 6 separate processes, the insertion of 160 Growler jets into our lives is illegal, yet the Navy has openly violated the law for years. If you want a stark example, the impacts from the 36 Growlers that were analyzed in the recent Draft EIS represent only 50% of the impacts from the newest jets, and if you do the math, less than 25% of total impacts from all 160. But breaking the impacts into small pieces allows the Navy to declare that each piece has “no significant impacts,” while they refuse to acknowledge that when combined, the impacts from all these separate “pieces” will be quite serious.
And we do not know if 160 is even the top limit. With squadrons of other types of aircraft also being transferred here, it’s obvious that their aim is to make Whidbey Island into a mega-base. The Navy also could not promise, in their recent EIS, that the air pollution they create would not drop our formerly clean, clear air below national air quality standards. That means our air could be similar to that of large polluted cities. They even piecemealed the air pollution and noise impacts by analyzing only takeoffs and landings, and not flight operations beyond a small area surrounding each runway.
Remember when we first heard about the use of Olympic National Forest as an electronic warfare range, back in September of 2014? Remember how the Navy’s John Mosher stood in front of audiences and told them the number of flights would increase by only 10%? Well guess what – the number of overall flights will be increased by 47%, and 79,000 of those will be Growler flights. In just 7 years, between 2010 and 2017, the number of “touch and go” flights at the Outlying Field at Coupeville alone are increasing from 3,200 to 35,000. That’s over a 1,000 percent increase. John Mosher is in charge of the Navy’s NEPA processes in the Pacific Northwest. He knew he was lying to us when he said there would be only a 10 percent increase.
They violate the law knowingly. A March 2016 Department of Defense procurement report stated that these additional 40 aircraft were not only ordered but in the process of being delivered. That report came out 7 months before the Draft EIS analyzing only 36 of the total 76 new Growlers. We repeat: This. Is. Illegal. And a violation of the public trust. They cannot lawfully make major decisions and commit government funding before initiating a public process under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), but that’s exactly what’s happening. Read this analysis to learn why “segmentation” is against the law.
Now the Forest Service’s Dean Millett is trying to figure out a way to justify that the flight increases are only a small percentage and won’t have a significant impact. The Forest Service has pushed their decision on issuing a permit to the Navy into June. The fact that they’ve delayed their decision from October 2014 to June 2017, plus removed all Navy information from their web site except for the 2014 Environmental Assessment, is evidence that even though the avalanche of public comments has been ignored, they appear to realize the public is on to them and that a decision to grant the permit will be a matter of tortured logic at best.
On the Olympic Peninsula, San Juan Islands and Whidbey Island, Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray have thrown their constituents under the bus. They avoid answering hard, sometimes anguished questions and send form letters that advocate for “working together” with the Navy. Rep. Rick Larsen thinks the Navy can do no wrong, and has openly jeered the people who’ve complained about noise (This has been recorded on videotape.) Navy supporters throw the “Sound of Freedom” argument at us, as if our unwillingness to support militarization of places like the quietest National Park in the nation is unpatriotic. Rep Derek Kilmer is the only one who’s been responsive at all – he has asked hard questions of agencies, but this only noodles with process and does not address our more substantive questions.
And this does not even address the increase in Navy SEAL war games on our public beaches, state parks, and private lands–how is it legal to close these lands to public access, even temporarily, without a public process for each one? How does a blanket permit to close off our public lands for war games meet the original purpose and mission of these public lands?
It feels hopeless. What can one person do? First, take care of yourself. Don’t allow the stress to overwhelm you; take time off if needed, but allow that to refresh you so that you can come back, choose something you can do to make a difference, no matter how small it may seem, and then do it. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. If we collectively don’t keep the pressure on those who are supposed to represent us and on those for whose salaries and activities we pay dearly, then we give up even the pretense of a democracy. Don’t let this happen.