Monday, December 3, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Coupeville, WA. On Friday, November 30th, the Navy announced that it terminated negotiations with consulting parties of the WA State Historic Preservation Office, government officials, and community leaders on Whidbey Island. Termination of consultation is an option provided to a federal agency under the Section 106 process, although it’s a rare and undesired outcome.
The best efforts of the community partners to achieve a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that would result in a clear public benefit, reflect local preservation priorities, and reinforce a successful partnership model were obstructed by the Department of Defense who remained unmoved by comments from any level, including local elected officials, Congressman Rick Larsen and Governor Jay Inslee. As a result, all consulting partners to the Section 106 process declined to sign the Navy’s Memorandum of Agreement as the mitigations offered were insufficient related to the level of impact – including the Governor’s staff at the Washington State Department of Historic Preservation.
In an October 26th letter to the Navy, the Governor stated, “The Navy’s proposed undertaking as currently presented is unacceptable to the state of Washington… I am personally familiar with the profound negative effect that the noise associated with additional EA-18 G Growlers has across the broader community. The noise level as currently outlined in the (final) EIS is unacceptable and unsustainable without significant mitigation and necessitates a commitment by the U.S. Navy to address and mitigate the short-term and long-term adverse impacts in Washington.”
Nancy Nordhoff, Langley, WA who was part of a Sound Defense Alliance delegation that met with the Governor regarding the Navy’s unacceptable Memorandum of Agreement reacted to the Governor’s decision not to sign it. “We are delighted and heartened that the Governor and his administration is standing up for the citizens and communities of the Puget Sound region,” she said.
Consulting parties have been involved with the Section 106 process to protect historic properties since 2014, and in spite of the Navy’s comments to the contrary, became knowledgeable about the two federal processes engaged to evaluate the Navy’s expansion plans: the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the National Environmental Preservation Act (NEPA) process. The NHPA Section 106 process concludes with a Memorandum of Agreement and the NEPA process ends with a Record of Decision (RoD) made by the Secretary of the Navy.
Despite repeated claims from the Navy that, “no decision has been made” on its EIS, the Navy revealed that plans are, in fact, already in place to immediately construct additional hangars at Ault Field, a project that will take 2 years. The section 106 negotiations can be seen now as a simple “check the box” exercise with no good-faith effort at noise mitigation – the supposed subject of the Section 106 talks.
The Navy has determined that indirect adverse effects to the Reserve’s 17,000-acre historic district would result from more aircraft operations and increased noise.” The Navy rarely acknowledges negative impacts, yet the admitted that yet resisted efforts to minimize or reduce them. The Navy was only willing to offer money to mitigate their impacts in the Ebey’s Reserve historic district. Offers started at $150,000 and increased to $1 million.
“Governor Inslee and local leaders know that no amount of money can protect this national historic district, established by Congress in 1978, from the devastating impacts of the increased flights. The only appropriate mitigation was for the Navy to reduce or minimize their operational plans as they have done elsewhere,” said Attwood, chair of the Sound Defense Alliance. “They wouldn’t even agree to have a public meeting to explain the impacts and the Section 106 process, which is their responsibility.”
The Sound Defense Alliance is a new regional voice working with our elected representatives in Congress to find a long-term solution for historic properties and for the region. Congressman Larsen has published his letters to the Secretary of Defense, and Congressional staff has been engaged in finding ways to work with the Navy and the Department of Defense, the Governor and the State Office of Historic Preservation and local officials have been engaged in making the case for reducing or minimizing the proposed massive military noise increase over Puget Sound and Ebey’s Reserve.
The SDA is composed of over 20 member and affiliate groups throughout the state and was formed earlier this year to organize regional efforts to oppose this expansion and has quickly grown to over 25,000 members.
Members of the SDA’s delegation who met with the Governor were Jamie Stephens, County Commissioner from San Juan County, Lori Taylor of Coupeville Community Allies, Larry Morrell of Save the Olympic Peninsula, Maryon Attwood, chair of the Alliance, Nancy Nordhoff of Langley, WA and Teresa Purcell, political advisor to the SDA. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Governor’s administration and our Congressional delegation to stand up for the citizens and communities of Washington, said Taylor.
“For decades our communities have partnered with the military – but this proposed massive expansion is just too much for our state and NW Washington,” added Larry Morrell. “We are grateful for the support so far and we look forward to working with all of our elected officials and people across the state to stand together to say that our communities are not for sale.”