By Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
The Navy announced after 4:30 p.m. Friday that it was terminating discussions with agencies and parties over how the Navy will mitigate impacts the increase in EA-18G Growlers will have on historic properties in Central Whidbey.
The Navy released the draft “memorandum of agreement” regarding the issue earlier this year even though there was no agreement, igniting a controversy in the community.
The law requires federal agencies to consider the effects a project may have on historic properties and to take action to either avoid or mitigate impacts.
Allyson Brooks, state historic preservation officer, explained earlier this year that the Growlers will essentially degrade quality of life and people’s experience in the historic district of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. As a result, the Navy is obligated to mitigate the impact by helping to enhance or otherwise “assist” the historic landscape, she said.
The Navy’s negotiations with the state historic preservation officer, the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, government officials on Whidbey Island and other “interested parties” haven’t resulted in an agreement.
Termination of consultation is an option provided to the federal agency under the Section 106 process, when the agency and consulting parties are unable to reach agreement on how to resolve adverse effects, according to a Navy press release.
There’s no disagreement that Growler flights at the Outlying Field Coupeville will have an impact on the adjacent reserve. The Navy already determined that indirect adverse effects to the Central Whidbey historic district would result from more frequent aircraft operations.
“Specifically, the preferred alternative would affect the historic integrity of five landscape viewpoints within the historic district,” the Navy said in a statement. “Subsequently, the Navy initiated a series of meetings and calls with all consulting parties with the intention to reach agreement on appropriate measures to resolve the effects.”
The Navy and consulting parties, however, haven’t been able to reach an agreement.
“After careful consideration,” the Navy statement said, “the Navy has determined that further consultation under Section 106 will not be productive within the time available to avoid unacceptable impacts to the Navy’s defense mission. This impasse results from an unwillingness to separate concerns about historic properties from concerns about other economic and community apprehensions surrounding increased Growler flights at the OLF. The 106 process is about historic preservation and does not address other possible impacts to the community.”
This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.