An EA-18G Growler launches from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson flight deck in the Indian Ocean in 2015. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Philip Wagner, Jr. / U.S. Navy file)

An EA-18G Growler launches from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson flight deck in the Indian Ocean in 2015. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Philip Wagner, Jr. / U.S. Navy file)

Alliance against Growler expansion ‘not going away’

The final decision is expected to be released within a couple of weeks.

By Laura Guido / Whidbey News-Times

COUPEVILLE — “Persistently advocating against all odds” is the theme of a campaign by the Sound Defense Alliance and its supporters, who are opposed to increased Growler activity in Central Whidbey.

The group recently held an event at Coupeville High School.

Sound Defense Alliance is a coalition that opposes the Navy’s plans to expand the number of EA-18G Growlers at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and increase the number of training flights at Outlying Field Coupeville by almost 370 percent.

The final decision, to be made by the secretary of the Navy or his designee, is expected to be released within a couple of weeks.

Approximately 165 people attended Thursday night’s gathering, which included information about the expected effects of the expansion on Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve and the town of Coupeville, among other local venues.

Diana Eelkema, of Coupeville, lives in the flight zone.

“The noise is unbearable,” she said. “I think (the increase is) going to affect our property values and our health.”

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen recently wrote a letter to Navy Secretary Richard Spencer with his concerns over the Growler plans. He recommended a reduction from its proposed increase at OLF Coupeville and distributing more of the field carrier landing practice operations at Ault Field.

Navy officials have said the outlying field offers the most realistic training conditions for landing on an aircraft carrier. Officials have also said other types of operations will increase at Ault Field and the majority of flights will still occur on North Whidbey.

Valerie Reuther, one of the event organizers, said any increase will create too much hardship on the rural area.

“This is one of the last wild places on the planet and the Navy’s trying to turn it into some place that’s uninhabitable for wildlife and people.”

Reuther urged those present to continue to speak out, to gather and to write.

“We’re not going away,” she said.

“We’re here to fight for our homes, our businesses and this region.”

This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.

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