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Methow Valley Jet Noise

I moved to the beautiful, and what I thought was the peaceful Methow Valley in North central Washington state about 10 years ago. On the best days (holidays and some weekends) it is very quiet with a background noise level of less than 30 db. On most days I feel like I live near a major airport (like Sea-Tac) and on the worst days I feel like I live in a war zone (near tree top flights).

Unfortunately the Methow Valley is part of the Okanogan Military Operations Area (MOAs) used for jet pilot training. I had no idea this was here when I moved here or I might have looked elsewhere. Until about a year ago the noise was tolerable with a month each in the fall and spring being quite bad. Since then the noise has exploded to a near constant insult. A typical day will have from 10-30 overflights. The noise is a deep low frequency (50-200 Hz) rumble which is extremely penetrating (think deep base). Typical peak noise levels in my house are about 70 dB (add 5-10 dB if outside). Each overflight can be heard for 1-3 minutes. Of course the low near tree top flights are incredibly loud (90-100 dB). That’s up to 10 million times the normal background noise level. These occur from one to several times per week. Flights typically start around 9 or 10 am each morning and continue into the evening with the latest being 11:20 pm.

This noise is incredibly disruptive. It interrupts my work, my dinners, TV watching, podcast listening, video listening, zoom meetings, meditation sessions and any naps I need to take (I have a sleep disorder). Last winter I was ill for some time and just wanted to sleep which of course was continuously interrupted. I feel sorry for those that have babies, work shift work or are chronically ill and need a lot of sleep. There is no question that the noise greatly increases my stress levels and will likely damage my health at some point.

Much of the jet traffic is associated with the Northwest Training range complex which includes the Okanogan and Roosevelt MOA’s. The training complex encompasses much of Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pond Oreille counties with a total population of about 110,000. The jets obviously fly here from the west side of the state (e.g Naval Airbase Whidbey Island) impacting hundreds of thousands of people in addition to the people living in the 4 aforementioned counties, National Parks, Wilderness and recreation areas so the overall impact is considerable.

At least some of this training is associated with electronic warfare, specifically operation of Mobile Electronic Warfare Training System (MEWTS) vehicle-mounted emitters on USFS lands within Okanogan and Roosevelt MOAs. I’ve read through the Final Environmental Assessment issued in 2014 which claims that there would be no significant impacts from noise. This obviously is a complete and total lie. Unbelievably, it appears that jet noise was not even included in the EA.

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