Washington State has brought legal action against the U.S. Navy for a decision that’s left parts of Washington and Greater Victoria with the rumbling aftereffects of some of the navy’s noisiest aircraft.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Tuesday that he has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Navy for expanded Growler airfield operations that “failed to adequately analyze human health, environmental and historic impacts.”
Located on Whidbey Island – about 80 kilometres from Victoria – the airfield is home to Growler aircraft that fly lower to the ground “in order to jam enemy communications.” In March, the navy authorized an expansion that would see close to 100,000 Glower takeoffs and landings every year for the next three years and add 36 Growler aircraft to its fleet by 2022.
In a media release, Ferguson said the navy’s environmental review process “unlawfully 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 the release. “That does not relieve the federal government of its obligation to follow the law and avoid unnecessary harm to our health and natural resources.”
|The distance between Victoria and Whidbey Island, where the U.S. Navy recently approved about 100,000 take-offs and landings of Growler aircrafts per year. (Google Maps)|
Ferguson notes feedback from the Washington Department of Health provided to the navy in 2017 that outlined the negative health impacts of exposure to noise levels similar to that at the naval base. The department said those impacts included sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment and cardiovascular disease.
According to the attorney general’s office, the airfield is also close to and will impact the health of important bird habitats such as bald eagles and a threatened seabird called marbled murrelets.
In a statement, Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp said “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 … The federal government must strike the appropriate balance to ensure our national security without permanently damaging the landscapes, species and communities they are seeking to protect.”
Ferguson has also added additional claims to the lawsuit under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
The full lawsuit is not yet publicly available.