Judge says citizens of Ebey’s Reserve failed to show the impact of Growler overflights was significantly worse than predicted by the Navy in 2005.
A federal judge has declined to issue an injunction sought by neighbors of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island seeking to stop noisy overflights of jet fighters practicing aircraft-carrier landings.
Dozens of Coupeville residents have complained that the Navy’s decision last year to resume flights of the EA-18G Growler aircraft, after stopping them in 2013, is ruining their health because of the constant noise.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly said members of the group calling itself Citizens of the Ebey’s Reserve for a Healthy, Safe and Peaceful Environment had failed to show that overflights by the Navy’s newest electronic-warfare aircraft were significantly worse than predicted in a 2005 naval environmental assessment of the flights’ impacts on local residents. That assessment was commissioned by the Navy as it transitioned to the newer Growler from the old EA-6G Prowler.
Zilly, in a 29-page order handed down Tuesday, noted the Navy has agreed to do a new environmental assessment based on the residents’ claims that the noise from the base’s Outlying Landing Field (OLF) in Coupeville is making their lives unbearable.
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The Navy uses the OLF to simulate landings on aircraft carriers. The field has been in use since 1943, Zilly noted.
The group first sued in 2013. The case was stayed after the Navy agreed to temporarily suspend use of the OLF.
The citizens group revived the lawsuit and sought an injunction in April after the Navy resumed operations in early 2014. According to court documents, the Navy has been flying as many as 9,000 carrier-landing practices a year, almost one-third more than predicted in the 2005 environmental assessment.
The Navy filed documents indicating the Growlers are training to support U.S. military action against the Islamic State group operating in Syria.
Residents claim the noise is causing significant health impacts, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, elevated blood pressure, anger and hearing loss.
The EA-18G Growlers, which are used in electronic attack missions, are a big part of the Navy’s presence on Whidbey Island. Currently, 82 Growlers are based there, and their numbers could rise to 118 as older model Prowler aircraft are replaced.