Lawsuit alleges U.S. Navy environmental review for Whidbey Island jet expansion was flawed

WatchPlans to expand the U.S. Navy's growler jet fleet on Whidbey Island has been put on hold following a law suit filed by Washington State. Julian Kolsut reports.

The U.S. Navy’s plan to expand the growler jet program on Whidbey Island may be grounded after Washington State launched a lawsuit.

It was announced by Attorney General Bob Ferguson Tuesday and alleges the environmental review conducted by the military was flawed.

It followed plans to add an additional 36 aircraft to the base. The electronic warfare aircraft have been the cause of many noise complaints in Washington and southern Vancouver Island.

“There is a U.S. Federal law that says that when the federal government takes an action like this it needs to take a hard look at the environmental impact of what they will do, and they just didn’t do that,” said Bill Sherman, from the Washington Attorney General Office.

“You need to look before you leap, and the environmental impact statement the navy put together doesn’t take a sufficient hard look whats going to happen to birds, wildlife, what the non-auditory impacts it could have on people.”

But the U.S. Military is standing behind their decision.

“The Navy does believe their final environmental impact statement is very thorough and comprehensive. Its addresses the multitude of comments we received during the duration of that six-year project and it satisfies the requirements of the national environmental policy act,” said Ted Brown from U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

Brown says the facility is the only place for the specialized aircraft to practice. He goes on to say the aircraft is used on aircraft carriers, and that the extremely difficult landing requires constant practice.

Sitting just 50-kilometres away from Whidbey Island, Oak Bay’s mayor says the legal action follows years of disruptions.

“Over the years the growlers have been sort of a mild curiosity for some people to a quite a significant annoyance for some people… It’s less of a public health issue than it is in Washington state… we lend out moral support to what they are trying to do to make sure that noise is kept in check,” said Mayor Kevin Murdoch.

But the importance of the aircraft is something the parties agree on.

“We understand the Navy has a really important mission, we are grateful for the work the Navy does. We know the mission of this jet is important for the safety of our armed forces,” said Sherman. “There is no reason the Navy cant gets its job done… and also properly asses the environmental impact.”

“A lot of our national defence comes from our partnership and alliance with the United States, and the fact that they have significant aerial reconnaissance in Washington State is a benefit to us,” added Murdoch.

For now, the plans for additional jets at the base remains up in the air until the court makes a decision on Washington State’s lawsuit.

With files from King5.

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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