The Navy’s proposed increase in Growler jet operations in Coupeville is bound to affect tourism and residents on South Whidbey, Langley city council members were warned Monday by an organization opposing the military plan.
“While this seems a central and north island issue, it is our issue in many ways,” said Vicki Robin with Sound Defense Alliance, a coalition of Puget Sound groups opposing the Department of Defense expansion plan.
Robin pointed out that increasing the operations of EA-18G Growlers at Outlying Field Coupeville will increase the number of times people in the area — including visitors — are irritated by the intense noise of the loud warplanes.
Tourism, housing, agriculture and what the alliance calls “the hidden costs of the military presence” were outlined by Robin and Dianna MacLeod.
Sound Defense Alliance representatives asked the council to consider passing a resolution to oppose the Navy’s proposed expansion of EA-18G Growlers, which has been the subject of numerous public meetings, protests and political controversy the past two years.
Council members plan to obtain more information about the issue and discuss a possible resolution at the next meeting, Jan. 21.
“Coupeville is only 25 miles away,” council member Christy Korrow pointed out. “These are legitimate concerns about the tourism economy, housing and water.”
Value of properties under the flight path will decrease, which lowers the amount of taxes collected by Island County, Robin said.
Additionally, farmers in Ebey’s Reserve may find it intolerable to continue small-scale operations, she said.
“When the jets are flying, you simply cannot do field work without layers of ear protection,” she said, adding that some of the island’s best organic farmers “may simply stop farming.”
The Navy’s “preferred alternative” from its Environmental Impact Statement — which has yet to be finalized and may be delayed because of the federal government partial shutdown — increases touch and go operations of the Navy warplanes nearly fourfold.
Many aspects of tourism could be affected, MacLeod said, including outdoor recreation such as whale watching, kayaking, diving and boating and the restaurants, wineries, hotels and inns that cater to visitors.
“Allowing the island to become a giant military staging ground will cripple the tourism industry and threaten small businesses,” MacLeod said. “This will certainly have ripple effects on South Whidbey.”
Langley resident and philanthropist Nancy Nordhoff also urged the council to get involved.
“I’ve lived here for 30 years and I’ve seen the division diminish between north and central and south Whidbey,” she said. “What harms any one of our cities affects us all. Let people know Langley is here and Langley cares.”
This story originally appeared in the South Whidbey Record, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.