Public meeting set in Port Townsend to discuss proposal to add 36 Growlers at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island
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A public meeting will be held next month in Port Townsend on an increase in Growler aircraft at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — The Navy plans a public meeting in Port Townsend in December on a proposal to increase the number of jets originating from its base on Whidbey Island.

Navy officials will take public input on a proposed increase of up to 36 EA-18G Growler aircraft at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

An earlier proposal called for an additional 14 jets.

The Port Townsend meeting will be from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 4 at Fort Worden Commons. It will be the first held on the proposal on the North Olympic Peninsula.

It will be preceded by a Dec. 3 meeting at the Lopez Island Center for Community and Arts, 204 Village Road, Lopez Island.

U.S. Fleet Forces Command spokesman Ted Brown said Thursday that the additional meetings were scheduled at the request of elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, who had heard from his constituents in the 6th Congressional District, which includes the Peninsula.

Port Townsend Mayor David King has said the proposal calls for an increase in the noisiest flights as the pilots practice on land the short runway techniques used for aircraft carrier takeoffs and landings.

The sound carries across Admiralty Inlet to Port Townsend and other areas on the Peninsula, residents have said.

As a result of the newly scheduled hearings, the comment period has been extended from Nov. 24 to Jan. 9.

Information about preparation of an environmental impact study on the plan can be found at www.whidbeyeis.com.

Written comments can be submitted to the EA-18G EIS Project Manager, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Atlantic, Attn: Code EV21/SS, 6506 Hampton Blvd., Norfolk, VA 23508.

Comments also can be submitted online at the project website and at scoping meetings.

During the meetings on the Growler jets, Navy officials will not discuss or take public comment on a controversial proposal for electronic warfare on the West End, Brown said.

“That is being done by a different branch of the Navy,” he said.

No presentations are planned at the upcoming meetings.

Members of the public can review project-related information, ask questions of Navy representatives and submit comments on the scope of the analysis and content to be addressed in an environmental impact statement.

Each of the meetings will be informal and consist of information stations staffed by Navy representatives who will provide the public with booklets that explain the process.

Some think comment should be taken on the electronic warfare proposal at the meeting.

Among them are Linda Sutton, one of the editors of the Protect Olympic Peninsula Facebook page, who thinks the Growler and the electronic warfare meetings should each allow testimony about the other, saying the two are related.

The electronic warfare range proposal calls for using electronic emitters to help train aviators from NAS Whidbey Island in electronic warfare.

The U.S. Forest Service is considering a special-use permit to allow access to 15 logging-road sites in Olympic National Forest on which three camper-sized Navy vehicles would be dispersed.

A fourth emitter would be at a fixed site at the Navy base at Pacific Beach.

The trucks, equipped with antennas mounted 14 feet off the ground, would emit electromagnetic radiation as part of simulated targeting exercises performed by NAS Whidbey pilots trying to locate the emitters' electronic signatures.

The purpose of the training is to practice denying the enemy “all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation (i.e., electromagnetic energy) for use in such applications as communication systems, navigation systems and defense related systems and components,” according to the Navy's environmental assessment.

The proposal has been discussed in two public meetings, Oct. 14 in Forks and Nov. 6 in Port Angeles, with almost universal public opposition.

The comments at the Port Angeles forum were not recorded and will not be part of the official record, officials said at the beginning of the meeting, something that incensed the crowd.

The Navy's environmental assessment for the project, which found no significant impact, can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-Electrowarfare.

Sutton was displeased about the recent hearings on electronic warfare in Port Angeles and Forks because “they had too many restrictions about how long people could speak and what they could speak about.”

“A lot of people aren't happy about this format,” she said.

“It's just a little dog-and-pony show where people aren't allowed to speak.

“They are just trying to rubber-stamp this and push it down our throats, which is unacceptable because these areas are the basis of our economy and why people come here.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 13. 2014 7:29PM
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