Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has announced he has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy over the Navy’s expansion of Growler airfield operations on Whidbey Island.
The U.S.Navy authorized the expansion of the Growler EA-18G jet program in March. The expansion increases takeoffs and landings to nearly 100,000 per year for 30 years. It would take place at the naval air station on the island, which is north Seattle, and the U.S. Navy plans to add 36 Growler aircraft to its fleet by 2022. Growlers are aircraft that fly low in order to jam enemy communications.
“The aircraft’s training regimen involves frequent, loud take-offs and landings,” the release from the attorney general’s office reads.
The office claims the U.S. Navy’s environmental review process for the expansion failed to measure the impacts to public health and wildlife in communities on and around Whidbey Island.
“The Navy has an important job, and it’s critical that their pilots and crews have the opportunity to train,” Ferguson said in a statement. “That does not relieve the federal government of its obligation to follow the law and avoid unnecessary harm to our health and natural resources.”
In the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Ferguson argues the U.S. Navy violated the National Environmental Protection Act and Administrative Procedure Act by improperly analyzing the impact the Growler expansion would have on human and environmental health.
In 2017, the Washington Department of Health provided feedback to the U.S. Navy regarding the noise levels around the airfields. According to the department, noise levels similar to those reported from Whidbey Island pose a threat to public health.
In the lawsuit, Ferguson alleges the U.S. Navy “failed to complete a thorough analysis of negative impacts to health.”
The attorney general’s office also asserts that the Navy failed to conduct any analysis on the impacts the expansion would have on wildlife in the area, including Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve.
Ferguson has also sent a letter to the Navy about additional claims he plans to add to the lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act for the marbled murrelet seabird.
The Endangered Species Act requires a 60-day notice before the attorney general’s office files a lawsuit.
“Washington will always work to defend our state’s vibrant communities and natural resources,” Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “We are proud to host installations for our armed forces and support the nation’s defense, however, the Navy has an obligation to follow the law and ensure adequate mitigation for its actions. Their efforts could result in disproportionate adverse impact to our state’s environment and the health and quality of life of Washington’s residents.”
Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp has called on the federal government to strike a balance between national security and protecting the environment.
“Unregulated, unrestrained noise pollution from increased military training operations presents a clear threat to the health and solitude of our state’s fragile ecosystems, treaty-protected resources and endangered species,” Sharp said in the release from the attorney general’s office about the lawsuit.
The U.S. Navy has declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit.