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SDA Response to Navy’s Noise Study Monitoring Report

Navy’s $1.8 million “Real Time Noise” Monitoring Study ordered by Congress Fails to Meet Commitments

As part of the 2020/2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) the Navy was ordered by Congress to conduct “Real Time Noise Monitoring.” The intent of the amendment was to require the Navy to: 1) engage local community stakeholders in the design of the study; 2) provide transparency and raw data to the community in a timely fashion for course correction, and 3) to measure the impact of Growler Jet noise across NW Washington.

The 36-page $1.8 million-dollar Real Time Growler Noise Study was released in December 2021 and the related Technical Report in January, 2022. Unfortunately, instead of measuring the single noise events of a jet flying overhead, requested as a priority by Congress and SDA, the Navy did what it has always done and focused nearly exclusively on the day-night noise level (DNL) metric. This averaging of the noisy and quiet periods together hides the actual disruption, harm and stress caused by the Growler flyovers.

This report ignores the intent of what was requested by Congress and is a disservice to Congress, our country and our impacted communities. “An actual flyover maximum can be 110 decibels, per the Navy’s data. That is considered the human pain threshold.”

There was only a single site at the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. More importantly, the Navy measured sounds regardless of whether aircraft were present. They distinguished between “active” and “inactive periods”; “active” defined as when aircraft operations MIGHT take place but did not necessarily occur. The Navy only measured a few weeks at a time throughout the year, so they could have simply missed the jet noise. And if there was any, when it was averaged over time and includes wind and rain, it can look like it is quieter when jets MIGHT be flying at certain time periods than when they are not during other time periods. They admit that such results are “counterintuitive”; SDA would say a better word is “misleading”.

This is one clear example of how the Navy missed the intent of the study. The Navy presentation of the data and conclusions do not reflect the reality experienced by the people of NW Washington.

Unfortunately, the content of this report is consistent with the December findings of a federal judge in the NEPA Action with the State of Washington against the Navy. He pointed out this same concern in his report to the court, “the Navy selected methods of evaluating the data that supported its goal of increasing Growler operations. The Navy did this at the expense of the public and the environment, turning a blind eye to data that would not support this intended result.” Although the Navy promised to address local concerns and Congressional intent, they failed in this study to address the issue of jet noise and its intensity and harm when it occurs.

The Sound Defense Alliance (SDA), an advocate for the real time noise monitoring amendment and a stakeholder in the Growler noise issue, is disappointed that the Navy missed an opportunity, supported by Congress, to make headway on resolving a serious military/civilian problem. Despite old patterns, SDA had hoped that the Navy would authentically engage the community and consider making the need for better research a priority. The Navy could have included high and low decibel readings instead, of averaging in their results and taken steps to recognize the harmful impact of incident noise on all living things.

Sound Defense Alliance has a Road Map for a remedy that will keep the Navy base open in Oak Harbor, increase new technological innovation at NASWI, reduce the number of Growlers and operations and restore a balance between civilian and military goals in Northwest Washington. SDA continues to seek a working partnership with our military neighbors as we work toward responsible and long-term solutions that benefit all communities.

We hope that Navy leadership will finally acknowledge the extent of the noise pollution and work with stakeholders to address it as soon as possible. SDA is ready and willing.

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