By Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen recently voted in support of a wide-ranging appropriations bill that would help move along the Navy’s process of finalizing details on the increase of EA-18G Growler aircraft at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
The Fiscal Year 2019 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill would reopen key federal agencies under the partial federal government shutdown, the Democratic congressman from Arlington said in a press release.
The bill, which would reopen the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency, is now before the Senate.
“The partial government shutdown has put iconic National Parks like the San Juan Island National Park and Monument at risk. Without visitor services, parks across the country have been vandalized, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service properties across Snohomish County,” Larsen said.
According to Larsen’s office, the bill would also return furloughed Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, or ACHP, employees to work. The partial government shutdown has delayed the current comment period the ACHP was leading on impacts to historic preservation from a proposed increase in Growler operations at the base.
The secretary of the Navy is waiting for the ACHP comments before issuing a final Record of Decision on Growler operations. Under the Navy’s preferred alternative plan, the number of flights at the Outlying Field Coupeville would dramatically increase; many Central Whidbey residents as well as some officials have complained about the plan.
Larsen sent a letter to Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer, calling on the Navy to “fulfill its commitment to wait on issuing a final Record of Decision on Growler operations until they receive and address ACHP comments.”
The bill would also reopen the Department of the Interior and ensure that areas like Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve are fully staffed, protected from vandalism and that visitors remain safe while exploring these iconic locations, Larsen’s office reported.
In addition, it would reopen the Environmental Protection Agency, which has been involved with the Navy and other agencies in responding to drinking water and groundwater contamination in Coupeville and North Whidbey from the Navy’s use of a type of firefighting foam.
This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.