Stories from Across the Region
Everyone has a story and we want to hear yours. This space is an opportunity to share your experiences with the Navy's EA-18G Growler jets and read about others'.
Your stories are the reasons for why we fight. Share your experiences to help others know they are not alone in this effort for quiet, safety, and balance.
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 somewhere else. 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 flight 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 10am each morning and continue into the evening with the latest being 11:20pm.
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 who have babies, work shift, or are chronically ill and need a lot a 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 MOAs. The training complex encompasses much of the 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 Air Station 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 the Okanogan and Roosevelt MOAs. I've read through the Final Environmental Assessment issues in 2014 which claims that there would be no significant impacts from noise. This is obviously a complete and total lie. Unbelievably, it appears that jet noise was not even included in the EA.
Methow Valley, WA
We used to live near OLF Coupeville (Out-Lying Field) on Central Whidbey Island Washington. We loved our house & gardens and the setting was sublime. As a thrice-awarded winning sound recording engineer of 40 years experience, I feel qualified to state that the presence of the aptly named "intruder" aircraft which flew at low altitude over our neighborhood many times in the course of a week, dumping fuel, and creating sound pressure levels in excess of 116 dba, was torture for the entire family and neighborhood. The Navy's press agents tried to convince us that their method of measuring sound levels -- "L D/N" (loudness day/night) proved that their flights were not at all loud and that we must be "NIMBY"s. L D/N, of course, represents the average noise level spread out over a 24 hour period, not instantaneous. Fyi, our neighborhood's normal ambient sound in the day time seldom exceeded 50 dba, and at night even less -- except when those jets were roaring ahead. Imagine a bucolic soundscape suddenly interrupted by a grotesquely loud machine roar for about 40 seconds, then gone; then a few minutes or even an hour of quietude, then another roaring jet. Imagine this going on all night long. Imagine trying to sleep, or watching your wife's and kids' sanity going downhill.
That was in 1990, and we got out. Not, there is a newer, even louder jet which flies even more often. I sincerely feel for those people who, unlike us, do not have the wherewithal to move away from such aural violence.
Jet noise triggers PTSD
As a psychotherapist and trauma survivor myself, I can say without a doubt that Growler jets roaring overhead is very distressing and triggering for those suffering with PTSD. The sound frequency, the sensory overwhelm, the inability to escape the noise (even with windows closed and earplugs), the sense of powerlessness, all contribute to being re-traumatized by the relentless bombardment of jet noise. I am often in tears at night, unable to find relief from the noise, and unable to sleep. My work life has been negatively impacted both by loss of sleep and by the noise itself interrupting my video sessions during working hours. The Navy should show more respect and concern for the impact of their training on the communities they are sworn to serve.
Port Townsend, WA
Even The Saanich Peninsula Isn't Immune!
The Whidbey Island Growlers issue is another example of American decision making spilling beyond America's borders. I live on the Saanich Peninsula (the unceded traditional territory of the W_SÁNEC people) and I regularly hear the sound of the growler jets out on their training/practice routines. While the sound pressure levels usually aren't high enough to cause perceptible harm, they are certainly irritating and detract from the otherwise-beautiful region we enjoy here. For example, I routinely use a backyard speaker to play cool-jazz music when we have guests over for parties, yet that music and our conversations are drowned out by the growlers' noise whenever they fly by overhead. After all, a high noise floor drowns out any sounds quieter than it!
I have much respect and admiration (albeit not always in a good way) for the American military and its personnel, but I wish - and I really don't think this is too much to ask - that they would tailor their training programs and flight routes such that human and animal health are protected and not infringed upon. Doing so would also carry the side benefit of protecting us from the air pollution released from their engines, which is spread over a wide area due to the altitudes at which the jets fly (it's also worth mentioning that there is no safe level of air pollution).
Thank you for the opportunity to share my story and I stand in solidarity with others who have been and continue to be affected by the noise from those (arguably impressive) aeronautical machines.
Saanich Peninsula, Canada
Another story of Growler pilots violating airspace
We have had an increased issue the past couple years with the Growlers violating speed limits below the Roosevelt A MOA. It has become so bad with our windows and walls shaking that I now have a 4K high resolution camera recording continuously pointed to the sky. I have filed multiple investigation requests with the FAA for airspace violations. The responses so far from the FAA have been disappointing. The Growlers are not required to have the same transponders as all other aircraft when operating in US airspace, even though this is a safety concern, and so the only proof you can collect is video and images. Anyone with this issue should file cases with the FAA: hotline.faa.gov along with filing noise complaints with the Navy email@example.com or (360) 257-6665
300 feet at 400 knots in the Methow
We get it once or twice a month. Here in the Methow we’re under the Okanogan Military Operations Area, and while we know they’re going to be practicing above us, they’re restricted to 1500 feet above ground level. Until they’re not.
Last week they came through the Twisp airport, then Winthrop airport, airspace at 300 feet above the ground, and easily 350 knots. I know these numbers because I’m a very active local pilot. I was supposed to be flying that morning but got called to the office. Otherwise I would have been in the pattern that they were blasting through.
Far beyond the illegality of violating airspace’s is simply that there is no reason to fly through our populated valley at that speed and that altitude. It literally rattles the windows and causes the livestock to crash through fences.
I called NAS Whidbey and was offered to be connected to air traffic control. I ended up connected to a very nice smooth talking public relations officer who informed me it was “probably just a new pilot flying a little off course.” I let him know it was two jets in formation. “You may have misjudged the altitude. Most civilians don’t know what 1500 feet looks like.” I told him that I was a pilot, and just asked him to please take a look at the flight records and let the “errant pilots” know that we are tired of it.
I will call that number every time it happens. But we’ve been trying that for years. They keep coming back.
My Home is Not a War Zone
My family lives a mile and a half from OLF. When the jets fly low over our house, it’s like we are living in a war zone. Everyone must quickly cover their ears and run for cover. What the heck. Is this America or some war-torn country? Do people who live away from this noise assault understand just how the noise impacts us? No one would consider this “normal” by any means. It’s unacceptable! Does the general public understand how this noise impacts our lives? The poor communication and polluting practices of the Navy has made them a despicable neighbor. With the Navy’s outrageous budget, they could do way better. Who’s watching them and holding them accountable? Please help end jet noise and thanks to everyone who’s helping in the fight.
We Had to Move Away
My husband and I found a house in La Conner Wa that we fell in love with. It’s such a beautiful area and such a wonderful little town. We bought the house there and sold our house in California. Unfortunately, we didn’t know much about the area except that we absolutely loved it! The tulips in the spring, all the lovely shops and restaurants. Well, the day escrow closed we were standing outside and 2 jets came screaming overhead. I said “what the @#$& is that? Too late, we discovered that this was a constant noise that we were never informed about. Apparently, if you don’t live in Island county there is no requirement to tell home buyers about this. We had to live there for several years because we would have lost so much money on our home. Finally, home prices came back up and we were able to sell and move away. I miss living in Skagit county, the otherwise peaceful and beautiful place. We now live somewhere where we can open our windows, are able to hear the television, have a phone conversation and sit outside peacefully. Whenever I read the stories of the people who have to live there my heart just goes out to them. It’s such an unbelievable situation that such a beautiful area is absolutely ruined because of the navy jets.
No Travel Zone
This past week we were on a road trip from our home in Whidbey Island to California. We stopped at a market in Oregon and started talking to the cashier. He asked where we were traveling from. After we told him, he said told us his experience: “I’ve been to Whidbey Island. It is so beautiful there. However, we tried to camp at Deception State Park. Those jets started flying and it was so loud! We thought it might stop after a couple minutes but it kept going on into the night, so we had to pack up and leave. It was terrible. There was no way we could stay even one night. We will never go back! I just don’t know how you people can live there.”
I was at my house on Prairie View avenue just off of Wanamaker road.
There’s a cable line that runs to my house from a telephone pole where two little tree swallows were sitting. They were singing away having a great little conversation and happy as can be. When the Growlers did their flyer by, these poor little tree swallows tucked their bodies in so tight and tucked their heads down into their bodies as far as they could. You can tell that the rumble of The Growlers flying by was deafening and hurting them. After the noise passed and it was quiet again they pop their heads back out and started singing again. This went on and on. It was 89 decibels. This made me so sad. I can’t even imagine what happens to them when it’s 120 decibels and all the rest of the birds in the wildlife.
We need our military, but we don’t need to feel like we live in a war zone in our own sanctuaries. This madness needs to stop! It’s destroying everyone’s lives, our livelihood, our beautiful Island and all the wildlife that lives on it.
Thank you for listening and everyone’s support.
Louder and Louder
Night and the the growlers fly. The navy ignores our pleas. Training over a less populated and environmentally sensitive place would make sense. The noise deadens us and local kids. They don’t want to move. Nice place to live for happy officers.
Somehow our plight is ignored also by our senators and representatives at all levels. They seem to think the economy depends on the base. It’s the opposite actually. They don’t want to alienate constituents who like to shout “go navy.”
Tourists are scared off. They complain later. This is unfortunate.
This morning while out walking our dog, three growlers in tight formation flew less than 200 feet directly over our heads. I thought that the Navy put safety and noise mitigation at the top of their list of concerns when it came to Flight Carrier Landing Practice at Outlying Field, Coupeville, but apparently I am mistaken. How is having fighter jets flying so close together over a residential area being considerate of those who live there? The increased possibility of an accident and the increased noise and vibration are not indicative of the Navy showing any concerns for the residents here in Admirals Cove.
We were still a 15 minutes walk from home with the jets performing FCLPs less than 150 feet overhead the entire time. By the time we got home, our whole bodies were rattled. The Navy could at least provide residents with the same hearing protection it provides to their personnel working near the growlers.
Nightmare night at Fort Casey campground
In the summer of 2015 my wife and I did a bicycle trip from the southwest corner of WA state up across Whidbey Island, and west through the mountains, ending in Yakima Wa. We will never forget the night we spent at Fort Casey. We made our campground reservations through the WA State Parks site, and there was no mention of any noise at Fort Casey. Not long after we retired to our tent for the evening noise beyond description suddenly erupted. We pushed our fingers into our ears as hard as possible, but it did little to diminish the pain. We were moaning in anguish, and could not believe how loud it was – far, far beyond anything we had experienced before – and we tried to gather our wits as it subsided. Shortly thereafter it repeated, and we looked to see it was due to jets flying close by. As they would turn, flying away from the Island, the noise was unbelievable. We spent well over an hour cringing in our tent in anguish trying everything we could think of to dampen the noise but it was no use. We were on bicycles, so trapped with no escape. The next day as we rode north past the Naval base we saw signs warning of noise – the first we saw – and we panicked, skipped lunch, and pedaled as hard as we could to get off the island. We really liked the area and were thinking of moving to Port Townsend, Sequim, or on Whidbey, but after that nightmarish night we resolved to NEVER go back anywhere near the area again. God it was awful!
More than once this winter, US Navy jets flew over our house after our nine-year-old son had gone to sleep. The tearing roaring noise woke him up, frightened and disoriented. This is not a sound you can get used to. Our unconscious minds register this sound as DANGER, and flood our bodies with endorphins to run, to hide, to fight. It’s nearly impossible to get back to sleep after being awakened in this horrible fashion. Not to mention the innumerable attempts to enjoy our glorious outdoors that were cut short by this abuse. You simply cannot be outside without ear protection when these jets are practicing maneuvers above.
Living with the Jets/My letter to the Navy
We live in Admirals Cove near OLF. Every week I get the notice from the Navy of their schedule for FCLPs at OLF. We plan all our outdoor activities and even some indoor activities, such as important phone calls and online meetings, around that schedule because it is simply too difficult, noisy, and uncomfortable to do those things when the jets are thundering overhead. Today the jets were supposed to fly “Early Evening to Late Night” according to their published schedule. Perfect, I thought. Today I can run outdoors instead of using the treadmill. Wrong! The Navy started FCLPs at OLF at 12:20 pm. I don’t know about you, but I have never considered 12:20 pm to be Early Evening. I was caught out two miles from my home without any sort of hearing protection when they started flying. As I got closer to home the noise got so loud it was painful. And when I was about 1/8 mile from my home, two growlers flew right over the top of me. The Navy would never let their personnel be that close to the growlers without hearing protection. Well, what about us citizens? Are we just acceptable and expendable collateral damage? If I remember right, we are the ones that pay for the Navy. It is their job to protect us. How can we coexist when they do not honor their schedule and don’t give us notice of actions that affect our lives. Before the expansion, my home was a place of peace and comfort. Now, I feel like I live in a war zone!
I love the jet noise. It’s sad that you have merely a handful of stories from people in exceptional situations. Your group and rallies are a bunch of sorry people who continue to think they are owed a good life. New flash! You are owed nothing. Its 2020 and you are still in charge of yourselves and your own life. Goodness, wake up and stop complaining. If you have a real problem with the noise, which you all manage to greatly exaggerate by the way, then move. Just leave. NASWI is not new. Guess who moved here knowing that tactical aircraft are stationed at NASWI? You. Yeah flights have increased, sure. Why wouldn’t they? Training is essential and the Navy’s power needs to ramp up as China and other near peer competitors continue to challenge us on the world stage. Seriously. Find something else to complain about, shouldn’t be too hard for this group.
The House our Family Would Own Forever
We bought a lot in the center of Coupeville in 2004 – a beautiful, peaceful town then, and as the center of Ebey’s Landing, the most historic in the Northwest. We then spent 15 years building a house on it – a summer house while we were still working in Oregon, but always intended as the place where we would retire, and the house our family would own forever. Then the Growlers arrived, and it just became worse and worse. Finally, when we often couldn’t sleep, and often couldn’t go out on the Prairie in the daytime, we gave up on Coupeville, and sold the house in 2019. Our hearts go out to our former neighbors and friends who are still there, and whose lives have been destroyed by the callousness of the Navy.
30 plus years of planting moving rocks only to be unable to garden most days. Grandchildren who hate our noice run to the house hands over ears..gramma those are bad planes. Long winters unable to watch tv or listen to music talk to one another and forget a phone call. Running to the house not making it in time and your ears hurting and ringing for days. Forget trying to plan a party inside is tough outside impossible. Then there’s our health which has been compromised by both pollution, and brutal noice what we now know is myriad of health problems associated with constant noice and contamination. These operations do not belong on top of people’s homes schools parks. The damage to our beautiful environment is unconscionable. Our unique island people, animals, birds and seas are victims given little care by the very people who we pay to protect us. Ironic SAD & WRONG
Will There be an End to This?
I have not done much reporting, only very occasionally calling or emailing. This was my last email submission:
I bought my house in January 2007. It was a lovely, quiet, rural island setting.
In 2012 I started to hear a low rumble and see jets off in the distance over or beyond Whidbey.
This past year or so the sound has increased on a grand scale.
The low rumble has increased markedly, both in volume and in frequency.
The much louder roar seems to go on and on and on and on, hour after hour after hour, day after day after day after day.
On occasion the planes get real close.
One time I panicked and thought a plane was about to crash into my house.
Another time I thought we were going to war. I thought maybe North Korea had attacked and we were retaliating.
I was in a panic (obviously).
Will there be an end to this?
I am older and do not wish to live out the rest of my days in these circumstances. I need to know if I need to sell my house and find somewhere quiet.
The growlers have two paths over and behind our house, just west of long point. When they fly over our house with decibels as high as 108, you can’t keep your train of thought to read. It’s too loud to work in our garden. It’s too loud to converse. It’s too loud to sleep. Our quality of life is non-existent when the growlers fly over our house over and over for hours/days at a time.
Horrible Growler Noise Even in Tulalip
It’s hard to imagine what the noise must be like closer than I am. I live on the Tulalip Reservation and on some days the noise is a constant roar with my windows occasionally rattling. Some days it goes late into the night and makes it difficult to sleep. It frightens my animals. My dogs won’t go outside and my chickens hide.
Can the Navy be a Good Neighbor?
We live in Langley and hear and feel the vibration of the Growlers, sometimes past 11 p.m. I call the Noise complaint line each time. We also camp on the Olympic Peninsula. While sitting outside our campsite at Salt Creek, west of Port Angeles, the Growlers flew over, their sound eclipsing any good feelings we had from the beautiful environment. We have camped in the Methow Valley and heard the Growlers roaring overhead. The sound vibrated our camper windows. We have hiked at Kukutali Preserve near LaConnor and had our well-being interrupted by the Growler’s sound pollution day and night. The plane’s noise is many times greater than commercial jets. We have heard testimony with Congressman Rick Larsen from retired navy pilots suggesting a better place to practice would be JBLM, where there is a safe runway. We hike regularly at Ebey’s Landing, as do many mainland visitors. Too many times our serenity was cut short by the anxiety-producing roar of the jets. Two years ago I took an elder for an electro-cardiogram at Whidbey Health Medical Center. The nurse could not hear my friend’s heartbeat because the windows were vibrating and the roar of the jets blotted out all sound. Please get the navy to move its operation. They are not being a good neighbors. We deserve to be free of their sound pollution.
Increased Growler Operations
I first became aware of the Navy’s plan to increase operations at Whidbey in late 2016. We had been renting a house to a young man who had been stationed at Whidbey and was just being discharged, Before being discharged he had told us that the Navy intended to transfer 5 squadrons of fliers out to Whidbey over the next couple of years; when I learned that a single squadron is 250 personnel, that meant 1,250 new fliers coming in, which appeared to represent a fairly significant increase. I later read in the news about the proposed increase in training flights using “Growler” jets, which are noisier, louder jets than the older type than in use. We had heard random jet training flights since moving to Camano Island in 2012, but they did not seem bothersome at that time. In the last few years, though, they have become more frequent, and as predicted, significantly louder. In addition, the new training flight routes bring these Growler jets right over Camano Island much more frequently than before, and at seemingly lower altitudes than before, as well as later at night.
The increase in noise levels is quite deafening at times, and frequently creates a loud, continuous background rumble. In the last year, both daytime and nighttime flights have been so much more frequent and louder that when we heard very loud evening flights as late as 11:30 p.m. for three nights in a row this past week, I finally filed a report (through the Quiet Skies website). I have frequently heard and seen Growlers passing low over Camano Island, usually while working in my yard on the west side of the island. On one occasion I was able to get video on my cell phone of a very low flight passing directly overhead before turning north toward the Whidbey base; the noise level was deafening, and continued to stay very loud even after the jet disappeared in the distance. I would be happy to share this video as an example and evidence of Camano overflights.
From a U.S. Military Veteran
To Whom It May Concern:
I am a U.S. military veteran. I support our armed forces and appreciate the role each branch plays in protecting our way of life. I also accept the necessity for military readiness training, as personnel change, equipment evolves, and/or deployment demands shift. I reside on Camano Island, directly in the path of one of Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island’s carrier landing practice vectors. We’ve lived with and willingly tolerated the periodic but relatively unobtrusive training cycles of the Navy’s “Prowler” wing for almost two decades, without objection. However, recent changes by the Navy to the much louder and more intrusive “Growler” aircraft has severely challenged our ability to passively coexist with these overflights. Even more concerning is the announcement of substantial expansion of the Growler wing (in numbers of planes and frequency/intensity of overflight activity). This represents a “clear and present danger” to the safety, health, quality-of-life, and economic welfare of everyone living in (or visiting) the North Puget Sound.
The North Sound’s population has grown exponentially since NAS Whidbey Island was originally sited (circa 1942). What once was an isolated, largely rural agricultural region, has grown to population concentrations, and associated housing, business, and infrastructure investment levels that rival those of the present Central Puget Sound metro area. As a result, damaging impacts, directly attributable to NAS Whidbey activities, are now being imposed upon substantially greater numbers of individuals and businesses than ever anticipated.
The weaponry currently being employed or projected for deployment at Whidbey NAS, likewise, is vastly more complex and dangerous. With the proposed increases in flight training intensity, the statistical probability of the occurrence of a serious accident becomes incalculably greater. Again, the population vulnerable to either direct or collateral injury or death is immensely more numerous than even ten years ago, and is expected to continue to grow rapidly.
To be clear, serious harm to the North Sound’s population is not confined to a catastrophic flight accident. Indeed, the current level of the NAS Whidbey Growler activities impose significant direct harm to the health, safety, and economic wellbeing of the entire population in this region. In an era when the F.A.A. is imposing ever-greater restrictions on commercial flight noise-levels throughout the nation’s civilian airport network, specifically intended to protect adjacent populations, it’s inexplicable that significantly greater injurious noise-levels are presently being imposed by NAS Whidbey upon proximate populations.
A precedent for substantially altering U.S. Naval air station utilization, in response to civilian population growth and development, can be found immediately south of Island County. I refer to the “former” Sand Point Naval Air Station, on Lake Washington. How long would the residents of Seattle, Mercer Island, Bellevue, Bothell, Kirkland, Redmond, and adjacent neighborhoods put up with the Growler training wing conducting touch-and-go landing practice, day and night, were the Sand Point NAS still in operation? Not long! And, yes, they are functionally equivalent circumstances. No one who purchased a home or otherwise invested their lives and livelihoods in the North Sound region could have reasonably foreseen the Navy’s decision to employ such a destructive, disruptive, and physically injurious technology, as that imposed by the training regime of the Growler wing at NAS Whidbey Island.
The decision makers who are charged with the responsibility to protect the health, welfare, safety, and economic wellbeing of the citizens of the North Sound region must intervene on behalf of the civilian and military families who suffer, through no fault of their own, from the use of NAS Whidbey complex for Growler training.
Another Hideous Noise Day on Lopez
Another hideous noise day on Lopez. Four letter words do not begin to describe the anger, pain, distress, and despair of living under the endless blanket of Growler noise. Will it ever end? Perhaps if we can replace Senator Murray and Rep Larsen with people who will actually represent us instead of kissing the feet of the Navy – year after year after year. We must keep speaking up.
This is Why I Fight
I moved my family just south of OLF near Coupeville, prior to the addition of more flights and more planes added to NAS Whidbey. At the time the lower frequency of flights made things tolerable, I guess. Island county required me to sign a noise discloser that indicates decibel levels at 70-75 with times exceeding 75. And flight patterns that show them away from my property. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I have repeatedly measured decibels of 120 and see averages of about 90. And this doesn’t include the lower frequency rumbling that shakes my house as they turn and fly directly over my house, just above the trees.
Now that there is increased flights, my family must tolerate this usually five days a week, mostly twice a day, and typically late into the night. Their practice totals up to 6 or more hours a day. Ironically enough they always seem to start off with a jet that is obviously quieter, as if to softly announce their presence. Why can’t all be like that one? There must be ways to quiet things down?? I am convinced this is affecting my family, neighbors and community.
I’m sure that no one on Whidbey wants the Navy to leave or feel unsupported. And we all know the value of training, but this is out of control.
If I could move, I would. My property value has, and will probably continue to plummet to the point that I’m backwards on my loan. I feel that the information provided to me at the time of purchase was inaccurate and misleading.
I am disappointed with the Navy’s lack of co operation and sensitivity, especially in this time of lockdown where I can’t escape it, even if I wanted to.
Long History with Naval Air Station Whidbey Island
I was involved with a group in the 70’s who tried to meet with Naval Air Station Whidbey Island or NAS Whidbey Island to work out a noise abatement plan. At that time we were dealing with the A-6’s. I remember a meeting we had with representatives from the base down at Coupeville High School. We were hardly able to hear ourselves many times during the meeting due to the “Touch and Go’s” being performed by the pilots at Naval Outlaying Landing Field (NOLF). It was ear splitting to say the least. Unfortunately nothing came from these meetings. The navy listened to our concerns, nodded and as far as I know, no abatement plan was ever worked out or implemented. I ended up moving from Anacortes to Samish Island near Edison, Wa. No jets there to deal with on a daily basis. I have now lived on Orcas Island for past 27 years and in June bought a little piece of beautiful wooded property at a private lake I used to swim at on Fidalgo back in the 70’s and 80’s. The Growler’s came later on and the made the A-6’s seem tame. I house sit for and visit friends who live at Dewey Beach outside of Anacortes going towards Deception Pass. The jet noise is almost unbearable at times. I have called and complained many times and of course, to no avail. They also fly past 10:00 p.m. at times. One of my favorite walks is walking down West Beach at Deception Pass State Park and I walk far enough that I can see the base. One day I got caught in the “Touch and Go’s” which was a nightmare. The Growler’s past so close to me I could see the face of the pilot. I was far from the parking lot and ran as fast as I could with my fingers in my ears back to the lot. You pass by many nice beach houses that would be literally be inhabitable due to this noise. As I left the park, 3 RV’S were leaving due to the noise. I asked the park ranger about this and she said this happens when the Navy does their “Touch and Go’s” and they always lose some campers. She also said that they make reference to the base in the description of camping at the park. I don’t think anyone can imagine though how bad it can be. Our group tried pointing out the noise impacts on humans, children, on health and hearing and on animal husbandry as well as the animals in general. It interferes with milk production as you know and other functions of farm animals. It is deafening. We got no where. I have hiked out at Sharpe County Park and had a Growler fly right over the lagoon, something that is not legal and I could see the pilots and got the numbers off the jet. I called and complained. I feel like we are given lip service and that is as far as it will go. I also feel like this attitude of “We were here first and if you like “The Sound of Freedom” then move” doesn’t fly. The area has grown and grown a lot. Those people are not going to be moving and the area around the base will not be vacated of people. These exercises and “Touch and Go’s” have got to be moved someplace in the Southwestern desert or another area that isn’t as populated as Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands. I have such concern for the people that live on the southern part of Lopez and San Juan Island. One of my favorite hikes is at Iceberg Point. I don’t have to tell you what that can be like. Then there is the constant non stop rumbling of the engines. When the wind is right, we can even hear them over at our place on Orcas Island. The noise completely disrupts lives and the peace and quiet of living where we live. I commend you all for your work and hope you can make a dent with the Navy to form an abatement plan but I am not hopeful. I was so happy to see Bob Ferguson law suit against the expansion of the Growler program. Hopefully that type of action could help. Otherwise I feel hopeless that the navy will have any incentive to move their operations to a less populated area and or work out an abatement plan. The best outcome would be to move the Growlers to less populated area. This is my two cents and my history with NAS. I wish I could go to the meeting tomorrow but we have a board meeting at our house. Good luck and keep me posted.
Gramma can we go now?
We took our grandkids up to Fort Ebey for an outing to play and have a picnic. The growlers came through. The horrendous noise was incessant. We weren’t there for very long and our grandkids said “Gramma can we go now?” I asked why and they said “that noise hurts.” I live in Clinton and can hear the rumble of these monstrosities in the distance. I have heard them up close and can’t imagine how people live in the proximity of this sonic abuse. This is not “the sound of freedom,” it is abuse.
My husband and I designed and built our home in 1980 on Morris Road, about a mile away from OLF. Before buying the 5 acres in the woods, we were at the property with our infant daughter when the Prowlers were flying to see if it was feasible to be there. It was “loud but livable”. Except for the concrete foundation, we built the house ourselves and anticipated living there until we were carried out feet first.
When the Growlers arrived, there simply was no possibility of “loud but livable”. It was impossible to be outside even with hearing protection due to the total body vibration. And inside (with 6″ insulated walls, triple pane windows, and a double-insulated attic) all conversation had to stop every few minutes as another jet passed over.
Along with hundreds of others, I submitted comments in response to the draft EIS and, along with hundreds of others, perceived that it was totally ignored. I attended a local “information” forum in Coupeville sponsored by NAS Whidbey, only to experience a magnificent demonstration of routing efficiency: “I’m sorry, I don’t have the answer to that question, but if you go to that booth, they’ll be able to answer it.” Oddly, “that booth” never had the information either.
So we did leave our property feet first, but we were upright.
I understand and support the mission of NAS Whidbey and understand that much of the decision-making about the craft housed there is beyond local control. So my comments are not directed so much toward NAS Whidbey as toward the “powers that be” that allow poor design to be inflicted on local communities.
I have been in charge of construction for $150,000,000 worth of construction for the Oak Harbor School District, and $28,000,000 for the Coupeville School District. As part of the process of designing the schools, I routinely contacted the Base, describing the project and followed up with drawings and documents. Though coaxed for comments, all 8 major projects had plans returned without any comments. Therefore, no accommodation for sound attenuation took place (except for the music room). Many designs could help the effects of the sound, BUT ONLY IF WE KNEW OF THE PLANNED CHANGES. The plan review process was the time to make changes to the design. Now, any changes are less effective, and more expensive.
This was not a problem with the Prowler, but totally unacceptable with the Growler.
Goodbye Deception Pass
Camping and kayaking in Deception Pass SP seemed like a wonderful idea. Why drive hundreds of miles when we have this world class park right on Whidbey Island. So we made our reservation, loaded up the camper and kayaks and drove 45 minutes north. The first night wasn’t so bad. Then we tried to paddle in Bowman Bay. The jets overhead were so deafening, I literally thought I would capsize. That night the roar continued for hours until 11pm. Next night they started in the afternoon as we tried to enjoy the sunset at Cranberry Lake and again continued into the night. Depressed, we headed home knowing that lovely gem of a park was ruined. So sad. We will never try to camp there again.
A DAY IN THE NAVY WAR TRAINING ZONE
Monday September 23, 2019 on Lopez Island – the day begins with natural sounds – Wind, leaves falling, distant murmur of the Salish Sea. No Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) is scheduled for Ault Field or the Outlying Field at Coupeville on Whidbey. Perhaps a quiet day to work outside and enjoy being home and catching up on inside work.
At 10 am everything changes. Growlers are ROARING overhead on the Southend of Lopez. Hoping the noise will not last long we head out to run errands on the North end of Lopez. We stop near the school half way up the island. The Growlers are Screaming overhead headed North.
We head further North to a friend’s home hoping for quiet. At 12:25pm at Cross Road we are settled in trying to do some computer work. Two more Growlers BLAST overhead rattling the building and us. At 2:15pm a huge BLAST from Ault field rattles the house followed by another at 2:22pm. We reach for the noise canceling headphones. At 2:50pm Two more Growlers ROAR OVERHEAD.
Still at Cross Road, still hoping for quiet, the ROARING continues at
3pm, 3:38pm, 3:35pm and 4:20pm.
We finally give up and head south and back to our home. Arriving at 5pm it’s quiet. Maybe we can have a quiet evening.
But NO. At 7pm a CRUSHING BLAST of 87 decibels interrupts dinner. Waves of Roars and Blasts continue in the range of 70 – 81 decibels in the house for the next 3 hours – finally ending at 10:30pm.
Basically residents of Lopez are forced to live on Navy time. Our homes are not places of refuge when the Growlers are flying. Lopez Island hears every takeoff and landing from Ault Field and every engine test.
Trying to live with the Growler noise has resulted in stress and health complications for our family and the impacts of the Naval Air Base on Whidbey Island go way beyond noise.
The Salish Sea and marine life, including Orca whales, are being impacted by Navy explosives, impulsive sound, sonar, high energy lasers, biodegradable polymers, unmanned underwater systems , post explosive fragments and more. Our regional air is polluted with cancer producing Growler exhaust, fuel dumping and 1,200 metric tonnes of CO2 for every hour of Growler flight. Whidbey Island’s water table is polluted by Navy perfluoroalkyl. And then there’s the health effects on the human residents trying to cope with the noise and pollution.
We are not trying to close the base, nor are we against the Navy. We need the Navy and our legislators, at every level, to start considering the health and well being of the Salish Sea and the all the residents – humans and animals – of this world famous region which reaches from the the Pacific Ocean through the Olympic Peninsula and Skagit and San Juan Counties across the North Cascades and to the Methow.
Our legislators need to lead the way and require that the Navy follow the National Environmental Protection Act and return balance, sanity, a healthy land, sea, sky and soundscape to this place we call home.
On Wednesday, 9/11/19, my cousin, his wife, and my wife and I went to Langley. In the first store we entered, two couples who had been in a rental near Coupeville the previous evening, were complaining angrily about there experience with Growler flights directly over their rental the previous evening. They had been frightened because they were so close overhead, they were unable to communicate by phone with their children, unable to talk with each other, and unable to sleep. They had planned to visit Coupeville’s historic downtown area, and other tourist sites in the area. Instead, they left immediately Wednesday morning. They were very angry, and were sharing their experience with another touring couple. They made it clear that they would never return to the area. It is predictable that they shared their experience with people wherever they were from, and with family members. That night we and our guests experienced exactly the same experience at our home on the east side of the island. Three hours of constant and virtually unbearable noise right over the top of our home. Does anyone think our guests, who are from Wenatchee, are not going to share their experience with friends, neighbors, and family? As I wrote to our D. C. representatives and to Governor Inslee, most of our island communities, except Oak Harbor, depend on tourism for survival. What we saw happening here will have a multiplier effect, and, I suspect, is a repeated experience – not just an outlier.
Greenbank and Growlers in the Middle of the Night
I live in Greenbank, Whidbey Island. During the day the Growler jet noise doesn’t really affect me. But when they fly in the middle of the night, it wakes me up, and I stay awake until their noise stops. This loss of sleep is causing unpleasant sleep-deprivation symptoms, which exacerbates several medical conditions I have.
I have lived adjacent to the Navy’s Coupeville airstrip for 35 years. In 1985 the landing strip was already over 45 years old and had been situated and designed for WWII planes. When I bought, trainees were flying A-6s and EA-6Bs.
Already in 1985 I was concerned that the Navy was exposing its pilots to a practice field that had not been modified for jets and that the area surrounding the field had been zoned for residential use.
I bought what I could afford. I heard the Intruders and the Prowlers and decided that I could live with the level of practice done by those planes at the Navy Coupeville field. I have always understood that the Navy is the foundation of the economy of central and north Whidbey.
What I do not understand is how the Navy can continue to use the Coupeville field for the more sophisticated and louder Growlers. I do not understand how the Navy can expose its flight personnel to a field that is too short for a safe emergency landing of difficult to fly Growler jets. Waivers give permission but not protection.
Our Navy trainees should be protected from the the inherent danger that practicing at the Coupeville field presents.
The question is not about the Navy presence on our Island. I understand the Navy is here to stay. But why can’t alternative fields that are safe for both flight personnel and the public be used for practice?
I was recently on an important phone call with the speaker on. I had been waiting on hold for awhile. Finally, I was being helped with my problem. I needed to give information and to receive information but unfortunately, the Growlers had plans of their own. I could not hear the person on the other end because of the loud jets flying over my house. We both kept repeating ourselves until the phone clicked. The other person simply hung up. Later this same day, I was talking with a relative and the same thing happened. she was aghast at the loudness. My mental stability and calmness went on a walk-about. I wish the navy growlers would go on a walk-about. . . to the Bermuda Triangle.
We retired in 2014 with no real plans for our retirement. We had talked about getting a place on Whidbey Island.
I was looking through the online listings for homes on Whidbey one day and found this place in Admirals Cove.
We met with an agent and looked out the windows at the ferry crossing and the Olympics and said “We’ll take it!!”.
We signed the papers and found there was another bidder so we raised our bid and won.
We now had a home on Whidbey. WE knew about the jets but did not hear them until quite a bit later after we had moved in.
The first few times was kind of neat but as with anything that occurs with regularity it gets old, especially noise.
My wife was happy with our home made some upgrades and even bought the lot below us, peace of mind and a garden.
Later that year, 2014, my wife fell and broke her back. Lots of pain for months but we finally found a surgeon that fixed it.
Then the next year she broke her femur in the right leg. Got that fixed to. After the broken leg things kind of went down hill with her health. She was relegated to using a walker. Not long after that it was into a wheel chair.
By the end of 2018 she was getting less well. Sleep came with difficulty. Then the increased flights into the night and some after midnight.
I wrote to the guy at the Navy who sends out the email notices for flights. No, he couldn’t do anything. I wrote to the Navy complaint line, no Reponses.
The NAVY cares not for anyone. They have their mission, no matter what.
Their disclaimer: The Navy’s OLF at Coupeville is a critical national security asset that provides essential training for Navy pilots based at NAS Whidbey Island to conduct safe and effective aircraft carrier flight operations around the world.
Does this disclaimer give the Navy or any other government agency the right to cause physical and emotional harm to its citizens? I don’t think so.
My wife, in the last few weeks of her life had to listen to the excruciating noise these jets make as the pass over our home.
Late into the night. She passed away in peace next to me in bed on May 29th, 2019. At least the jets were not flying that night.
It would have been nice and a bit more humane if the Navy could have stopped their flights for the last month or two of my wife’s life.
The Navy’s practice stops for nothing except God (the weather).
These jets disturb and cause physical and emotional harm to everyone even those that say, “we love them.” I do not want them to cut back on the number of flights I want them stopped all together. There are better places not over populated areas where they can practice. The Navy makes basically fraudulent reports of sound levels made by their jets. Here is an example: Measure the sound level of jet flying over at 100db then measure the sound of with no jet flying over at 50db then you average it, that comes out 75db. Gee, that doesn’t sound too bad when OSHA says you can be exposed to a sound level of 85db for 8 hours and the jets flying over are only there a few seconds. So how long can you listen to 100db safely? About 15 minutes. But some of the jet noises have been record over 100db. Safe time at 115db is 30 seconds. How about 120db? If you hear a noise at this level your hearing has been damaged. See government findings below:
Guidelines for recommended permissible exposure time for continuous time weighted average noise, according to NIOSH-AINSI and CDC.
For every 3-dB sound pressure level (SPL) over 85 dB, the permissible exposure time is cut in half – before damage to our hearing can occur.
NIOSH = National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
CDC = Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
OSHA = Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Jets and Polio
I got Polio in 1955 and am now dealing with PPS (Post Polio Syndrome) My PPS means that I HAVE to take a nap every day in the afternoon…. My health demands it…. Now I live 13 miles East of Tonasket WA up the side of a mountain and mostly its nice… until the Jets show up…. they are so loud that no-one could sleep ( I sure can’t ) and when they are flying overhead you can NOT talk or watch TV….. its just TOO loud…. They fly during the day and they fly during the night…We have had meeting with the Navy and they say that there is no-one living out here…. just a bunch of trees…. Well I am here to tell you there are 1000’s of people living in this valley…I HATE those jets….
I am home recovering from serious abdominal surgery. Last night the jets flew over my triple insulated 9 year old home until 11:00 p.mm registering as loud as 99.6dB with all windows closed. I struggle to recover with days and nights of flights, particularly those on flight 14 pattern. A friend had brought me dinner and we couldn’t hear one another to even converse.
Our Whidbey Retirement Home
In 2016, we purchased our retirement home on Whidbey island with a view of puget sound. We thought we could use it as a vacation home from the stress of Southern California. We knew there were jets. We were ok with 6,000 flights per year not 25,000! My 8 year old daughter is afraid to go to bed for fear the planes will crash on our home. Even our dog has anxiety attacks when the jets go over. In 2018 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the past year I have had 5 surgeries, 4 cycles of chemo and 6 months of immunotherapy. I can’t help but wonder if others in my community have had health issues related to the jets besides noise. The navy in my opinion has not been a good neighbor.
Fear of Ferrying
We arrived back at the Coupeville ferry terminal yesterday afternoon to the horror of planes screaming overhead. We rushed away from the area asap and returned home to south Whidbey. We will avoid shopping or traveling near Oak Harbor and Coupeville and ferry to the mainland to avoid the pain of our Navy “protection”
I live in about three miles south of the OLF. I commute to Seattle to work five days a week. This means I have to get up at 4:15 am. I also wear a Fitbit and monitor my sleep. Last night, when Jets were flying until “early morning” I got 12 minutes of sleep. I thought sleep deprivation was considered torture by our country. Guess not.
I HATE those Jets!
I had Polio when I as 5 and am now in my 60’s dealing with Post Polio Syndrome. I have to take a Nap every day for a couple of hours because my brain just shuts down… I live in a valley just East of Tonasket WA. and those jet come screaming over my home and I just can’t sleep. IF I can’t get a nap in then the rest of the day is a fuzzy mess for me…. I really HATE those jets and would NEVER have bought property in Washington State if I had known about them..
Our Island Retreat is No More
I attended the Navy’s public meeting in December 2016 at Fort Warden and spoke directly with one of the Navy contractors who was involved in developing the noise analysis that was conducted for the Draft EIS. I asked him if the analysis involved any actual acoustic measurements or sampling. He told me no, that it was all done by data modeling. I asked him what the data projected as the noise impact on Marrowstone Island. He asked where that was. I showed him on a map on the display. He indicated that we were not in an area of impact, and therefore were not included in the Draft EIS. When I informed him that the existing Growler activity was already making quite a noise impact on us and that I heard the aircraft quite clearly during the touch-and-go trainings at Coupeville, He seemed genuinely surprised and said that he should “make a note about that”.
My husband and I, at that time, ran a small nature retreat center on Marrowstone Island, which depended on the peace and quiet of our rural setting. A significant number of our guests, many of them a diversity of clergy members on retreat, came from around the country to spend time in reflection and relaxation. The summer of 2016 saw the Navy Growlers practicing at Coupeville for long hours in the evenings, often starting around 4pm and continuing until 11pm or later. I received complaints from long-time guests about the consistent noise disruption caused by the Navy’s activity. Our location is about 7 miles (as the crow flies) from Coupeville, on the southeast side of Marrowstone Island. At the time we were concerned about the impact this activity would make on our bookings for the next year. And that actually did come to pass. Because of the disruption of 2016’s flights, we lost a number of repeat guests who were no longer able to count on the peace and quiet of our retreat. In 2018 we closed our business. The failure of our retreat business not only impacts us economically, it also impacts our small local community as our guests took advantage of other island businesses such as the Nordland Store, Marrowstone Winery, neighboring farm stands and Fort Flagler State Park. These are not big companies, but they are significant enterprises that impact the quality of life we share on Marrowstone Island.
In my comments on the Navy’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, I asked that Marrowstone Island be included in the final EIS. I feel by not doing so the Navy showed a critical fail of scope. The use of inaccurate noise data is also a failure of the EIS. To have a noise analyst tell me that I don’t hear the jets that ruined my business and still keep me awake at night is insulting to my experience. As the volume and low frequency noise of these aircraft are very unique, and very impactful, I feel it is imperative that an accurate analysis be conducted by the Navy on how the Growler program expansion affects us in East Jefferson County, as well as the larger region. One option that is not addressed in the DEIS is considering an alternative or additional site for Growler operations. With the high dependence of our region on recreation and tourism, as well as the hundreds of thousands of residents in the area directly surrounding NAS Whidbey Island, it seems reasonable to explore the option of locating at least some of the Growler training to other, less impacted, areas of the country. In my opinion, it is the thorough assessment of impact and careful consideration of options that would allow the best decision to be made for maintaining our quality of life, the health of our environment and the security of our country.
I recount this story as a fourth generation resident of the Puget Sound region. I grew up on San Juan Island and prior to the Growlers there was a much more respectful relationship between the Navy and their neighbors. We heard and saw the previous aircraft, but not in the current manner that creates hazard to our health and quality of life. I am sorry that the Navy is being sued into being the good neighbors that they should be. It seems they have not learned the lessons of Oceana. After all, they only exist to work for us and certainly should follow the letter and intent of the law in developing an accurate EIS on the Growler expansion.