EA-18G Growler Airfield Operations

EA-18G Growler Frequently Asked Questions

NEPA

 

Q:  What is NEPA?

A:  The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a U.S. environmental law that promotes the enhancement of the environment and established the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). 

The law was enacted on January 1, 1970.

NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions.

Agencies evaluate the environmental and related social and economic effects and publish the analysis for public and regulatory review.

NEPA is a process that includes public input concerning proposed action evaluation.

 

 

Q:  Why didn't the Navy carry out its due diligence and conduct a full EIS vice an EA with the replacement of the Prowler with the Growler? 

A:  The Navy prepared an Environmental Assessment in 2005 to determine whether the transition from Prowler to Growler would have significant environmental effects requiring the preparation of an EIS.  After extensive review, the Navy determined that there would be no significant effects and that the preparation of an EIS was therefore not required. 

The 2005 EA analyzed 57 Growler aircraft replacing 72 aircraft, which included the loss of 15 expeditionary or land-based aircraft. 

An EA was prepared because significant impacts would not be expected when reducing the number of aircraft from 72 to 57 when the noise profiles are similar.

After extensive review, the Navy determined that there was no significant impact of transitioning from 72 Prowlers to 57 Growlers thus EA was appropriate level of NEPA. 

In October 2009, a Deputy Secretary of Defense memorandum directed the U.S. Navy to maintain the Expeditionary VAQ capabilities indefinitely.  Thus the 2005 Proposed Action was never implemented. 

The Navy prepared the 2012 EA which analyzed retaining the three Expeditionary Squadrons and relocating a Reserve squadron to NAS Whidbey Island which resulted in an increase from 72 to 82 Growler aircraft.

The 2012 EA considered the potential cumulative impacts of the earlier 2005 action.

After an extensive review the Navy determined that there was no significant impact of transitioning expeditionary squadrons from Prowler to Growler aircraft.  This action was completed in 2016. 

Q:  With all of these operational changes since the release of the Draft EIS in Nov 2016, why did the Navy not issue a supplemental analysis and not hold more public meetings?

A:  As the Navy stated when the delay in the release of the Final EIS was announced, the operational changes (implementation of PLM/MAGIC CARPET and few pilots per squadron) resulted in a reduction of impacts (fewer airfield operations) from what was studied in the Draft EIS.  While this is new information that was not available at time of DEIS, it is not significant new circumstances or substantial changes to the scope of the proposed action to warrant a supplement at this time. 

 

Q:  Has there been an Independent review of the EIS?

A:  Yes, EPA, federal regulatory agencies and state resource agencies as well as the general public have reviewed and commented on the EIS analysis.  Together, the Navy has received 4,335 comments on the Draft EIS analysis.  This extensive review by so many organizations and individuals is considered an independent review. 

 

Q:  When will the EIS be finished?

A:  The Final EIS is expected to be released in late summer or early fall of 2018.  The Record of Decision will be announced no earlier than 30 days from the release of the Final EIS.

Q.  Why did the Navy bother to analyze two additional FCLP distribution scenarios when you were always planning to go with the operations split of 80% Coupeville and 20% Ault Field?

A.  The Navy thoroughly analyzed five (vice the original three) scenarios to provide a wider range of FCLP distribution possibilities and allow the Navy’s decision maker (the Secretary of the Navy or his representative) a greater range of options when making the final decision.  This decision will be announced and released to the public in a Record of Decision that will take place no earlier than 30 days after the release of the Final EIS.

 

Q:  Why is the Navy basing even more Growlers at NAS Whidbey when it knows the community doesn't want the ones that are already here?

A:  DoD has identified a need to purchase additional Growler aircraft.

The Navy has assumed the Electronic Attack mission for all of DoD.  This mission is carried out with Growler aircraft. 

The Navy's VAQ mission has been single-sited at NAS Whidbey since the 1970s, for over 40 years. 

NAS Whidbey remains the only home base for electronic attack aircraft in the United States.  It is not an accurate assessment to say the 'community' does not want the Growlers there.  The Navy recognizes that some members of the public have this sentiment and respects their position, but the Navy is also aware of widespread support for the Navy and the Growler mission within the community.

 

Q:  What has the Navy done with the comments I submitted during the public comment period?

A:  All comments received on the Proposed Action have been reviewed, categorized by comment themes and are submitted as part of the administrative record for this project. Responses to substantive comments are within the FEIS Appendix.

Due to the large number of public comments received on the DEIS, copies of the 4,335 public comments will be available on the project website and on legal website upon release of the Final EIS in late summer or early fall. 

 

Q:  Why didn’t we get to vote on this issue?

A:  NEPA is a process that involves a public involvement at key points during the initial project announcement and following the announcement of the analytical findings of a proposed action. 

Congress has voted to approve the purchase of more Growler aircraft for NASWI. 

 

 

 

Q:  Who made the final decision on this action?

A:  The Secretary of the Navy made the final decision on the proposed action. 

The decision was published in the Federal Register as the Record of Decision. 

Project Overview and Alternatives

 

Q:  Why weren't other areas outside Coupeville considered in the NEPA alternatives? 

A:  The Navy did consider other airfields in the community, and none met the requirements necessary to support FCLPs, including runway length, weight bearing capacity, civilian aircraft and airspace compatibility, airfield infrastructure, and FCLP-specific equipment. 

·         OLF Coupeville is an integral part of the NAS Whidbey Island complex. 

·         OLF Coupeville is the dedicated airfield for carrier operations, including Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLPs), at NASWI. 

·         OLF Coupeville is critical to train Navy pilots for aircraft carrier operations. 

·         OLF Coupeville is designed to simulate the experience of landing on a carrier.

·         The ability to train at two locations with multiple aircraft types - at OLF Coupeville and at Ault Field solidifies NASWI's support to the Fleet.  Coupeville provides more realistic training for FCLPs.

·         Unlike Ault Field, OLF Coupeville has no competition from other aircraft using the field - the flight patterns are uninterrupted and better replicate carrier landings.

·         OLF Coupeville is within the necessarily fuel capacity distance (within 50NM) from NASWI, the existing home base of the Growler.

·         OLF Coupeville was specifically designed in 1943 to mimic a carrier deck, while Ault Field is part of the full-service, active Naval Air Station.

 

Q: Is OLF Coupeville unsafe?  Was a 1986 safety waiver issued?

A:  OLF Coupeville is not unsafe and a safety waiver is not required to conduct FCLPs. There is no established Navy runway length requirement for FCLP.  The Electronic Attack Wing has analyzed the facilities at OLF Coupeville and those facilities meet their requirements for FCLP.  While a waiver was prepared and issued by the Navy in 1986, it was subsequently cancelled in 1990 when it was determined the OLF runway length met FCLP training requirements to qualify pilots for carrier landings in an area less than 300 ft.  In addition, OLF Coupeville has arresting gear at the end of its runways in case of an emergency when an aircraft is unable to divert to Ault Field.

Q:  Why can't the Navy move their carrier landing training to a more remote location such as Moses Lake or Lemoore, California or one of the other Services that doesn't have that mission anymore?

A:  These alternate locations are not practical, nor would their implementation be a reasonable use of taxpayer dollars and closely proximate conditions at sea.

·         An OLF should be located as close to the operating base as practicable.  This is driven by fuel constraints - aircraft must be at a low weight (low fuel level) when conducting practice carrier landings.  The close proximity allows more passes on limited fuel.

·         The Navy's OLF in Coupeville is ideally situated for carrier landing practice operations.  OLF Coupeville is close to the NASWI home base, which maximizes training opportunities while keeping costs down.  

·         Training at alternative sites outside of the local area results in an increase in transit hours which reduces the service life of the aircraft.  Military aircraft are designed and constructed with a set number of airframe service-life hours and must be retired or complete an expensive service-life extension program once these hours are reached.

·         Furthermore, an OLF in close proximity minimizes the time our pilots and maintainers are away from home, allowing them more time with their families prior to deployments, reducing stress on personnel. 

The EIS addressed these suggestions, since these were included in comments received during the public comment period.  It is not cost effective or operationally efficient to routinely detach (temporarily move) to other locations for the bulk of FCLP training prior to each carrier exercise or deployment.  It would not support the purpose and need of the proposed action because it would result in a less effective Growler community.

·         Relocating the OLF would be inefficient, cost prohibitive and create worse environmental impacts.

·         The Navy did consider other airfields within a reasonable distance to Ault Field, and none met the requirements necessary to support FCLPs, including runway length, weight bearing capacity, civilian aircraft and airspace compatibility, airfield infrastructure, and FCLP-specific equipment.  This will be summarized in the Final EIS.

 

Q:  Why aren't FCLPs flown at other airfields besides Ault Field and OLF Coupeville (out of area FCLPs)?

A:  In developing the proposed range of alternatives, the Navy utilized long-established operational considerations which are more fully described in the 2005 and 2012 Environmental Assessment for the replacements of the Prowler aircraft with the newer Growler aircraft at NASWI. 

These considerations include the fact that all of the Navy's Electronic Attack mission and training facilities are located at NASWI, including the substantial infrastructure and training ranges that have developed in over 40 years of operation, the location of suitable airfields that provide for the most realistic training environment, the distance aircraft would have to travel to accomplish training, and the expense of duplicating existing capabilities elsewhere.

As a result, the Navy did not consider alternative locations for permanent FCLP training, temporarily move FCLP training or squadron relocation.  Short-term FRS detachments to meet training and deployment requirements will continue as needed. 

 

Q:  The original EA said the Navy was only bringing 57 Growler to NASWI to replace 72 Prowlers.  You upped the number in 2012, then you upped it again in 2013, and now you upped it yet again to 118.  Did you slowly increase the number to hide how big the increase was really going to be? 

A:  Historically, the electronic attack mission was shared between the DoD services.  But in recent years, the mission shifted solely to the Navy.  This shift, combined with an increased need for the Growler's electronic attack mission, resulted in the purchase of more Growlers than initially planned for the Navy. 

NASWI is the only home base for Growlers in the United States, so the additional aircraft and its operations are slated for home basing NASWI. 

The following is a history of the changes that have occurred. 

·         The 2005 EA analyzed 57 Growler aircraft replacing 72 Prowler aircraft because the Navy planned to transfer the expeditionary squadrons to the Air Force (reduction of 15 aircraft). 

·         However, in October 2009, DoD directed the Navy to maintain the expeditionary squadrons indefinitely.  Therefore, the 2005 Proposed Action was never implemented

·         The Navy prepared a 2012 EA which analyzed retaining the three expeditionary squadrons and relocating a reserve squadron from Joint Base Andrews to NASWI and transitioning those aircraft from Prowlers to Growlers.  This action, resulted in an increase from 72 aircraft to 82 aircraft

·         The DoD has recently identified a need to purchase additional Growler aircraft.  In June 2013, a budget request for two more expeditionary Growler squadrons and the purchase of 13 additional aircraft was submitted in the President's Budget for Fiscal Year 2014. 

·         In the spring of 2014, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) requested the purchase of 22 additional Growler aircraft as part of the Unfunded Requirements List in the President's Budget for Fiscal Year 2015. 

·         Congress has agreed to fund these additional aircraft and they will be based at NASWI

 

Q:  Why can't the Navy anchor an old aircraft carrier or old barge out in the Puget Sound or build an OLF on one of the uninhabited islands in the San Juan Islands? 

A:  FCLPs are conducted on ashore facilities to provide pilots the opportunity to simulate carrier-landing operations in an environment where the risks associated with at-sea carrier operations can be safely managed on land, before conducting operations over water. 

·         It would be very dangerous to conduct FCLP operations on a decommissioned aircraft carrier, or barge, which would be subject to weather, tides, swells and other wave energy.

·         FCLPs are conducted by pilots just beginning their post-graduate training and by more experienced pilots renewing their training ahead of carrier qualification. 

·         Moving to a new shore-based installation, or constructing one, would involve considerable economic costs for airfield construction or modification, aviation easements and logistics, and would have a greater environmental impact by requiring the construction of a new OLF. 

·         An OLF also needs to have qualified personnel at the field monitoring FCLPs and access to emergency response services. 

·         Invariably, it would also mean moving aircraft noise from one community to another community.

 

Q:  Why can't you just construct parallel runways at Ault Field?

A:  FCLP operations at a second runway would still interfere with other necessary air traffic and operations, and the quality of training (particularly for new pilots and those who have not been in the cockpit for an extended period of time) would not be as great as that experienced at OLF Coupeville, which is designed specifically for FCLP.

Construction of another runway at Ault Field would not eliminate the need for an OLF.

 

Q:  Why don't you equitably split the operations at OLF on the East and West sides of the airfield? 

A:  The Navy’s goal is to have equitable distribution of FCLPs using the northern and southern approaches to the runway. As part of and a result of the EIS analysis, the Navy has standardized the flight tracks at OLF Coupeville to allow a more even apportionment of FCLP operations between the two runways.  Based on historic prevailing wind conditions the Navy estimated that runway 32, the southern approach to the OLF, will support about 70 percent of FCLPs at OLF Coupeville, while runway 14, the northern approach, will support about 30 percent, but every effort will be made to share the load as evenly as possible between the two runways.

Historically, Runway 32, has been the predominate runway due to the aforementioned environmental factors. Additionally, there were restrictions on Runway 14, that degraded training.  

 

Q:  I understand that the Navy has been tasked to solely provide electronic attack mission, but who else was involved before?  Why can't that Service take some of the Navy operations at their bases?

A:  The U.S. Air Force used to perform an electronic attack mission using the EF-111 Raven.  The EF-111 entered service in 1983 and served until it was retired in 1998. Afterwards, the Air Force began depending on Navy and Marine Corps EA-6Bs for electronic warfare support, and did not develop a follow-on aircraft to the EF-111.  The U.S. Marine Corps fleet of EA-6B Prowler aircraft reached the end of its service life this year, and will not be replaced with a new electronic attack aircraft, therefore the Navy now assumes the entire electronic attack mission for all of DoD with its Growler aircraft based at NAS Whidbey Island.

 

Air Operations

 

Q:  Why can't you just do all your flying during the day?

A:  Landing on an aircraft carrier at night is perhaps the most hazardous aviation task. 

We conduct many of our real-life operations at night, such as night time carrier landings, so we must train at night as well. 

Therefore, we must train pilots on how to land at night before allowing them to do so at sea where there is almost no margin of error.

Training is the foundation of everything we do.

In short, we "train the way we fight" to ensure operational readiness and safety. 

 

 

Q:  Why does the Navy need to use OLF Coupeville?

A:  OLF Coupeville is critical to train Navy pilots for aircraft carrier landing operations.

OLF Coupeville is a training facility used in support of Field Carrier Landing Practice.

An OLF is critical to providing our pilots a facility where they can realistically train ashore consistent with at-sea operating conditions, under all conditions (day and night).

The Navy's OLF in Coupeville is ideally situated for FCLP operations. 

It is close to its home base, which maximizes training while keeping costs down;

it is located in an area with low density development, and has very little ambient light which allows us to closely replicate the way landings are conducted aboard ship at night.

Although FCLPs can be (and are) conducted at Ault Field, FCLP operations at Ault Field conflict with other necessary operations. 

 

Q:  The OLF was built during World War II and is only 5,400 ft. in length, which takes it out of current safe standards.  Why hasn't the Navy shut it down?

A:  OLF Coupeville remains safe to operate in support of the Navy mission. 

OLF Coupeville is specifically designated as a field for pilots to practice operating on aircraft carriers. 

This training does not require full-stop landings, but rather repetitive approaches simulating operations on an aircraft carrier.

Because the aircraft immediately take off after touching down, the runway length safely meets FCLP training requirements. 

 

Q:  Why can't the Navy do the bulk of carrier training in simulators?

A:  The Navy has learned how to best prepare pilots for the very demanding task of landing on an aircraft carrier, and believes it has achieved the right mix of simulated and live training. 

The Navy uses flight simulation extensively for training, and today's computer technologies do provide excellent tools and are essential to a successful, integrated aircrew-training program. 

While this training is extremely valuable, it cannot replace the feel and physiological conditions experienced through live training.

There is simply no substitute for an aviator to conduct training in a real aircraft, in a real airspace, for perfecting Field Carrier Landing Practice on an ashore airfield before landing on an aircraft carrier. 

 

Q:  Why doesn't the Navy tell these pilots to stay in the designated flight pattern?  Sometimes they fly right over my house, which means they are obviously outside the pattern!

A:  Flight paths represent a general flight area, not a specified, linear track.

Flight corridors are designated areas wide enough to account for standard air traffic control procedures as well as environmental and human factors, such as prevailing winds and the experience level of pilots.

There are also some variables someone could exacerbate confusion on flight pattern.  One such variable is the amount of fuel an aircraft has. Fuel load will impact where an aircraft will be in a flight pattern area.  The heavier the aircraft, the wider its turn radius.  Another impactful factor is the number of aircraft participating in training events like FCLPs.  The more aircraft there are conducting FCLPs in a given event, the more elongated the pattern becomes as aircraft must maintain a minimum safe distance from each other.

Some flight corridors are simply travel routes to and from, while other flight corridors are designated to support repetitious patterns, like those used in carrier landing practice.

All pilots at NASWI are required to participate in training on local area flight procedures. 

This includes an annual refresher.

 

Q: What is the base doing to account for observations that pilots have drifted out of their designated flight paths? 

A:  NASWI's Air Operations Duty Officers will retain the ability to monitor feedback, including phone calls and emails, and influence ongoing operations as necessary. 

 

Q:  Why can't the Navy change its flight routes or patterns so as not to overfly populated areas? 

A:  The Navy operates under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines. 

Pilots are trained to rules and noise abatement procedures in order to instill an attitude that supports positive community relations. Every change in a designated flight route has a domino effect on the other routes. Changing the current established routes will simply move the impacts to other people. Many of the flight routes are predominantly over water to minimize community impacts.  In an effort to minimize the impact of our operations on the local community, NASWI continually evaluates flight patterns at both Ault Field and OLF Coupeville. Landing Signal Officers are utilized during FCLPs to ensure flight pattern integrity and proper sequencing of aircraft is maintained.

 

Q:  Do you anticipate any changes in flight operations to take pressure off the civilian populace?

A:  While our mission continues, we work with our local communities to modify flight operations to minimize our impact when possible.  We meet often with elected officials, school representatives, and community organizations and groups.  When schools notify us about their testing schedules, we adjust our flights if weather conditions allow.

During weekends, we minimize flights at OLF Coupeville to limit disturbance.

Additionally, in an attempt to make the public more aware of our planned operations, we publish FCLP flight schedules for both Ault Field and OLF Coupeville on our Facebook page and in the Whidbey News Times a week in advance. We also send this flight schedule information to other area media outlets, which may or may not choose to publish the information. 

Members of the public can also receive updates directly by contacting the base public affairs office at WHDB_NASWI_PAO@navy.mil.

 

 

Q:  Why doesn't the base schedule more FCLPs at Ault Field vice doing so many at OLF Coupeville?

A:  FCLPs are best performed at a dedicated airfield.  When FCLPs are flown at Ault Field, all other flights and aircraft training at Ault Field are restricted or delayed.  When FCLPs are flown at Ault Field, more people off base can be affected for the following reasons:

It causes delays for other aircraft operations that can extend training later into the night; and

It extends flights beyond the normal flight pattern, which can impact more people.

Officials at NASWI consider air traffic control procedures, types of airfield operations, training requirements, runway availability and weather when determining how to schedule time slots for FCLP training. 

OLF Coupeville is our dedicated airfield for carrier operations, including FCLPs, and has been used continuously for this purpose since 1967. 

Ault Field by comparison is busy, multiple mission airport; while OLF Coupeville was specifically designed to support FCLP operations, it is also able to support helicopter training. 

FCLPs are still conducted at Ault Field, but at the cost of other aircraft missions. 

OLF Coupeville is one of, if not the best field in the Navy for FCLP training.

Training at OLF Coupeville allows us to conclude daily operations in less time.

Coupeville provides more realistic training for FCLPs.

Landing on an aircraft carrier is one of the most challenging tasks a pilot can perform, and it is a perishable skill.

 

Q:  You limited operations in 2013 at OLF Coupeville.  Why can't you continue to do this?

A:  Operations at Ault Field have changed in recent years, leading to the field being increasingly unsuitable for conducting the majority of Growler FCLP operations.

·         In the early 1990s, NAS Whidbey Island’s aircraft consisted of almost exclusively tactical aircraft (A-6E, EA-6B).

·         In 1995, three P-3C reconnaissance aircraft squadrons were relocated to NAS Whidbey Island.

·         P-3C squadrons are now being replaced by six P-8A squadrons.

·         Base operations at Ault Field are being increasingly impacted by the number of FCLPs being flown at Ault Field.

o   Conducting FCLPs at Ault Field leads to increased time to train for all NAS Whidbey Island squadrons, resulting in longer fly days, more fuel expended and more flights required to complete training events.

o   Ault Field’s single runway configuration precludes diverse arrivals when FCLPs are being conducted, due to pattern congestion.

o   Takeoff delays result in missed training range and route entry times, in addition to excessive fuel use on deck.

 

Q:  Can't you do high powered turns somewhere else?

A:  We are investigating the potential of a "hush house" that would mitigate noise from high powered turns.

Any request would need to be funded by Congress through the federal appropriations process.

 

Q:  Can you point the engines in another direction when you conduct static engine turns for maintenance?

A: High power operations are restricted by the infrastructure required to conduct these operations.  We reviewed options for adjusting the headings, however this will only transfer the noise to another populace.  Low power turns are limited by the number of aircraft on the ramp and thus are restricted in the ability to change directions and maintain clear zones for safety.

 

Q:  What is the Navy doing to cause all the noise we hear in the San Juan Islands?

A:  We recognize people living in the San Juan Islands hear noise from aircraft operations even though they fall outside the federally recognized sound contours generated through the noise analysis associated with the FEIS. 

The operations people in the San Juan Islands hear likely include arrivals, departures, field carrier landing practice and possible some static engine turns necessary for the maintenance of our aircraft from Ault field. 

We are, and have been, working with elected officials from the San Juan Islands to determine what operations are being conducted that are heard by residents. 

We do strive to work with communities to minimize impacts from aircraft operations whenever it does not hinder ability to successfully accomplish the many different NASWI operations. 

It is important to keep in mind that other activities in the region may also contribute to what people are experiencing.  This could include ship traffic in the Puget Sound, the oil refinery in Anacortes, air traffic at other U.S. and Canadian airports and other potential sources.

Q: Both Ault Field and OLF Coupeville will support increased airfield operations.  For Lopez Island, what does an increase in 9,800 more ops/year under the selected alternative at Ault Field mean? 

A:  The Navy studied 15 alternative and scenario combinations to understand how the increase in operations and a change in the distribution of FCLPs will affect the surrounding communities. While there will be an increase of operations at Ault Field the increase in noise will be mitigated by moving the majority of FCLPs to OLF Coupeville.

 For the northern communities, including Oak Harbor, Anacortes and San Juan County (to include Lopez Island), this means the vast majority of all airfield operations will be arrivals and departures at Ault field, with fewer periods of concentrated closed loop pattern training such as Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLPs).  Most residents affected by airfield operations at Ault Field should notice fewer periods of FCLPs. 

Additional Background:  For the southern communities, including Coupeville and Port Townsend, while there will be increase in operations at OLF Coupeville, this means an overall increase from approximately 90 hours (1% of total hours per year) to 360 hours (4 % of total hours per year).  For the vast majority of the time (96% of the total hours per year), residents are not expected to experience elevated noise levels.

Q: Since the decision for the Growlers, are aircraft flying the wrong flight track?

A:  No, there are seasonal changes in flight tracks that occur due to changes in wind and weather patterns.  These changes impact which runway air traffic control directs pilots to use.  When the wind is five knots or more, the runway assigned by air traffic control is almost always aligned with the wind.  See section 4.1.2.1.2. of the Final EIS for more information (and see figure below).  Please note that flight tracks are a representation of the general flight area in which aircraft travel and are not a specific, linear track.  There are several factors that may affect the flight path which could be confused with a lack of precision by the pilot.  For example, the weight of fuel load in the aircraft will affect the turning radius, with a heavier aircraft requiring a wider turning radius.  Also, a flight track may be elongated to accommodate more aircraft in the pattern in order to maintain a minimum safe separation distance between aircraft.

Additional Background:  As explained in section 4.1.2.1.2 of the Final EIS, the FCLP pattern for Runway 14 has changed.  Historically, the runway utilization goal at OLF Coupeville has been to split FCLPs equally between Runways 14 and 32.  In recent years, however, due to a non-standard pattern on Runway 14, the utilization of Runway 14 has been significantly lower.  The Final EIS studied and the Navy has implemented modifications to the FCLP patterns at OLF Coupeville primarily due to the non-standard pattern on Runway 14 and adjusted runway utilization based on the prevailing wind.  The new standard OLF Coupeville FCLP patterns are depicted in figure 4.1-2 of the Final EIS.  These standard patterns improve training and enable more use of Runway 14.   

Q: OLF is 60 feet higher than the surrounding terrain which is not water, so how is that similar to an aircraft carrier?

A: As documented in the Final EIS, the field elevation of OLF Coupeville is 200 feet above mean sea level (approximately 60 meters), and the aircraft landing pattern for the field is 800 feet above mean sea level.  The altitude above ground at which the aircraft fly the landing pattern at OLF Coupeville closely replicates the altitude of the aircraft carrier landing pattern (OLF Coupeville is located on a 200-foot ridge surrounded by flat terrain, similar to how an aircraft carrier is situated at sea).  Practicing at an altitude that simulates the carrier environment is essential for pilots preparing to land on an aircraft carrier because such practice matches the visual cues as well as the required power settings needed to fly a safe approach for an actual landing on an aircraft carrier.

 

Q: Does the Navy fly any day of the week?

A:  Yes flying can occur any day of the week depending of mission needs.  As military assets serving a key role in national defense, Ault Field and OLF Coupeville are available 24/7 to support the military mission and operational readiness needs of our nation.  However, the Navy announces changes to routine airfield operations and advises the public of a potential increase in operational tempo related to FCLP schedules.  For example, the Navy announces FCLP schedules for both Ault Field and OLF Coupeville one week in advance.  The Navy continues to work with the community regarding schedules and will continue to avoid scheduling FCLPs over the weekends unless dictated by mission needs.

Additional Background:  As discussed in Appendix H of the Final EIS, there have been noise abatement and mitigation measures in place at the Whidbey Island complex for decades, which have been optimized to move aircraft operations away from population centers.  These measures will continue to be implemented.  Amongst these noise mitigation measures included in Appendix H are: continuing to inform the public of upcoming FCLP schedules and other events that may increase noise impacts; continuing to restrict high power jet aircraft turns prior to noon on Sundays and daily between 10:00pm and 7:30 a.m.; continuing to review operational procedures for changes that reduce noise while supporting safe, effective mission execution; and, continuing to collaborate with the community on compatible land-use planning initiatives under the AICUZ and REPI programs.

 

Q:  Why do you have to train so much? 

A:  Landing on an aircraft carrier at night is perhaps the most hazardous aviation task.

Carrier landing is a perishable skill and each pilot must be re-qualified before going to the carrier.

Practicing carrier landings on land in the daytime and then at night prepares pilots in an incremental way to progress to landing on an aircraft carrier at sea. 

Taking into account safety and other risks, the integration of Precision Landing Mode (PLM) throughout the Fleet will reduce our FCLP requirement by about 20 percent, and this reduction has been incorporated into the analysis presented in the Final EIS.

 

Q:  Why must the pilots fly so low; flying higher would seem to be an easy fix to mitigate the noise?

A:  Aircraft altitudes are dependent upon the type of training an aircraft is involved in. For instance, FCLP patterns ideal if practiced between 600 ft. above ground level to more closely mimic the patterns employed when landing on aircraft carriers. The FCLP pattern is flown at the same altitude as the pattern is flown at-sea. Flying another altitude minimizes the benefits of the FCLP training on land to teach pilots the proper procedures prior to reporting to the ship. 

The FAA mandates altitude minimums aircraft fly. Generally, the floor of most altitudes is 500 ft. above ground level in rural areas, 1,000 ft. in urban areas. The Navy also employs stricter flight altitudes than the FAA regulation.

The goal of Navy training is to train how we fight. 

 

Q:  Why can't the Navy just train out over the water at night?

A:  Landing on an aircraft carrier at night is perhaps the most hazardous aviation task.

FCLP training ashore is essential for post graduate pilots to simulate the carrier landing on an airfield on land prior to going to the carrier at sea. 

FCLP training is a graded event contributing to pilot proficiency on land before going to sea.

 

Q:  Where did you get your operations numbers?

A:  The Navy keeps records of all aircraft operations, which are reported annually to FAA

Operations are counted as a departure or an arrival and are frequently referred to as a "pass".

Completion of one FCLP race track pattern would actually be counted as 2 aircraft operations (one arrival and one departure).

For typical FCLP operations there may be an aircraft that completes 7 to 8 passes equating to 14 to 16 operations since the operation includes a departure and an arrival. 

Q:  I heard that the Navy is getting 160 Growler Aircraft?  Why are you saying there will only be 118 Growler Aircraft?

A:  It’s important to understand the difference between the Navy’s program of record and the proposed action for home basing the majority of the Growler fleet.  The program of record, of the total number of Growlers that the Navy plans to buy over the expected life of the Growler program is 160.The Navy’s home basing action is to operate 118 Growler aircraft at NAS Whidbey Island Complex to support the expanded electronic attack mission.  The program of record represents a pool of available assets:  some aircraft will be in an operational flight status; while others will be inoperable (non-flying or preservation status) until such time as they are needed. A significant number of these aircraft are based at other Navy location for specialized missions such as testing and evaluation.

Congress authorized the Navy to purchase additional replacement aircraft while the manufacture line is still operational.  These replacement aircraft will be used when other operational aircraft have reached the end of their service life or aircraft lost in combat.

It is important to note that the number of aircraft operations is defined by the number of pilots who are flying the aircraft.  The aircraft only facilitate the training of pilots.  Thus the total number of aircraft procured does not define how many aircraft operations will occur.

 

Q:  Does the Navy dump fuel during their aircraft operations?

A:  Fuel release procedures are governed by the Federal Aviation Administration and Navy rules. 

Navy pilots are prohibited from dumping fuel at altitudes below 6,000 feet above ground level, except in an emergency situation.

 

Aircraft Noise, Noise Study Results, Noise Results Ault Field and Coupeville

 

Q:  How does the Navy conduct its sound studies, and why didn’t they come and measure sound levels in my neighborhood or home? 

A:  Noise modeling, rather than noise measurements taken with monitors, is used to assess noises exposure, because this is the most accurate method of estimating airfield noise exposure. 

·         Noise modeling is the accepted method by both the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for noise impact analysis in areas adjacent to airfields. 

o   Noise modeling accounts for multiple variations that occur throughout the year, such as weather conditions, runway usage and operational tempo.

o   Science supports noise modeling as the best way to predict noise exposure levels around airfields. 

o   All aircraft considered in noise modeling have gone through actual noise measurements, creating a noise library that is used in noise modeling. 

·         Modeling allows the Navy to project sound levels for aircraft that may be stationed here in the future, and changes in the flight operations that do not currently exist.

o   The use of the day-night average sound level (DNL) is a federally-accepted metric for analyzing the impacts of noise on communities.  

o   The modeling may be used to predict sound levels at specific locations.

·         Noise modeling is conducted according to established Department of Defense (DoD) guidelines and best practices. 

o   It involves extensive data collection, validation, and analysis, and is subject to rigorous technical and quality assurance processes.  

 

Q: Was there any modeling of noise outside of Whidbey Island?

A:  Noise is not limited to the areas immediately around Ault Field and OLF Coupeville.  Therefore, the Navy included additional noise modeling using supplemental metrics for various points of interest in the region with respect to schools, residential neighborhoods and parks.  Based on scoping comments, the Draft EIS analyzed 30 points of interest; and as a result of public comments on the Draft EIS, the Navy expanded its analysis to consider 48 points of interest in the region.  Many points of interest are located outside Island County and include points of interest in San Juan, Skagit, Jefferson and Clallam Counties.  Figure 3.2-6 of the Final EIS shows the 48 points of interest that were used in the noise modeling. 

Additional Background:  The 48 points of interest include:  Parks: Cama Beach State Park, Port Townsend National Historic Landmark District, Pioneer Park, Cap Sante Park, Spencer Spit State Park, Marrowstone Island (Fort Flagler), Lake Campbell, Moran State Park, San Juan National Monument- Point Colville, San Juan Island National Historical Park- American Camp Visitors Center, Spencer Spit State Park; Residential: Skyline, Sequim, Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Rocky Point Heights, Marrowstone Island (Nordland), South Lopez Island (Agate beach), Snee-Oosh Point, Pull and Be Damned Point; Schools: Lopez Island School, Sir James Douglas Elementary School, Fidalgo Elementary School, Anacortes High School, La Conner Elementary School, and Friday Harbor Elementary School, and Elger Bay Elementary School.

Q:  How do you and we know that the sound studies are even valid?

A:  Noise modeling is the accepted method by both the DoD and the FAA for noise impact analysis in areas adjacent to airfields. 

•      All Navy environmental studies use the best available data and noise modeling software. 

o   Noise was modeled using a computer program called NOISEMAP that uses measured acoustic signature data from each aircraft type. 

o   NOISEMAP takes into account the number and type of flight operations planned over the course of a year to establish noise contours for all types of aircraft operating at an airfield.

o   NOISEMAP uses the type of aircraft; number of flights; flight tracks; height above the ground; power setting; environmental factors including temperature, humidity, terrain and different types of surface; and engine maintenance testing. 

•      The procedure for determining potential hearing loss includes first identifying the number of persons residing in the greater than or equal to 80 dB DNL contour.

 

Q:  Why has the Navy avoided engaging with the community about its concerns over noise at OLF?

A:  NASWI officials remain engaged with local elected leaders and other members of the community, in Coupeville, Oak Harbor and many other area communities, as they have been for decades. 

o   We work with the community in several different venues and implement recommendations arising from those discussions such as publishing flight schedules and closures. 

o   We also share our weekly OLF Coupeville and Ault Field flight schedule with local media, and created a telephone call-in line for those who have community noise complaints or concerns.  People may also sign up for our press releases to be sent directly to their email accounts.

o   NASWI’s Commanding Officer routinely meets with local and county elected officials to discuss pertinent issues affecting the base and surrounding communities. He also regularly meets with several civic and business groups while members of his staff routinely meet and work with key government members from planning and security departments. The base also has an active and substantive Partnership in Education program with local schools.

Q: Why is the Navy not listening to the community about the unacceptable noise impacts?

A:  The Navy has been listening to the community, soliciting public input and carefully weighing the strategic, operation and environmental consequences of the Proposed Action.  The Navy recognized that the primary impact to the community is the increase in noise exposure to residents.  Of the 15 alternatives/scenarios studied, the Navy chose to implement Alternative 2A which impacts fewer residents living in the surrounding community.  Furthermore, the Navy has adopted all practicable means to avoid or minimize environmental harm and still maintain the vital mission of the Growler aircraft.  Efforts to reduce noise impacts on the community are detailed in Appendix H to the Final EIS and include limiting noise, land use planning and management and noise abatement operational procedures.  One of the Navy’s most significant mitigations is the commitment to employ Precision Landing Mode (PLM, also known as Magic Carpet) technology, which, when combined with reduction in the number of pilots per squadron, reduced the number of proposed FCLP by 30 percent when compared to projections in the Draft EIS.  The Navy remains committed all noise mitigations measure identified in Appendix H.  The Navy will continue to pursue innovative technology to reduce aircraft engine noise. 

 

Q:  Why did the NEPA/Navy document mislead the public by saying the Growler was quieter?

A:  Though the sound may seem different, noise levels for the Growler and the Prowler are comparable in most flight profiles. 

·         The noise study does acknowledge that the Growler is 1 dB SEL louder during arrival than the Prowler.

o   As noted in the EIS, the Growler is not louder, but has a slightly higher potential to cause noise-induced vibrations.

o   The Growler is recognizable by the low frequency “rumble” of its jet engines, whereas the Prowler is associated with a higher frequency sound of its jet engines.  

o   Generally, a change of less than 3 dB is not perceptible. 

o   Noise exposure varies depending on where you are in relation to the flight path.

 

Q:  How could the Navy have a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) on the NEPA for the Growler EA, when the acoustic modeling used wasn’t appropriate and doesn’t account for the dangerously high dBA noise levels inside our homes, and the effects this noise has on our children and their ability to get a decent night’s rest?  Did you study the impact of aircraft noise on children’s ability to learn? 

A:  DNL is the accepted metric used by all federal agencies, 49 states and a large number of municipalities for evaluating the impacts of aircraft noise (California uses a similar metric), including Island County.

·         The Navy examines noise impact in NEPA documents, including sleep disturbance and speech interference. 

·         The Navy studied the potential impacts of aircraft noise on children, as required by Executive Order 13045. 

·         The Defense Noise Working Group (DNWG) has developed guidance for using supplemental tools and metrics for noise analysis in order to measure community annoyance, potential hearing loss, sleep disturbance, and speech interference. 

o   The guide can be found at http://www.denix.osd.mil/dnwg/Documents.cfm

·         For properties in high-noise zones, Island County has adopted zoning ordinances for land-use controls, including building codes and noise disclosure.

 

Q:  How did the Navy’s sound analysis account for the noise from the aircraft as it takes off during the field carrier landing practices?

A:  One Field Carrier Landing Practice pass is two operations – a landing and a take-off.  The noise analysis reflects the engine power settings of both operations. 

·         This is important since take-offs are conducted at a high power setting and generates more noise energy, resulting in higher noise level.

 

Q:  Why doesn’t the Navy provide hearing protection and sound proofing to local citizens affected by noise generated by the Growlers? 

A:  Congress has not given the military services the authority to provide hearing protection or to install soundproofing in homes and buildings that are not owned by the federal government. 

·         Sound attenuation standards are typically contained in city and county ordinances.

o   The Island County ordinance specified land-use controls, noise attenuation standards for construction and occupancy, and noise disclosures for purchase and lease of properties in high noise zones.

·         The FAA has a helpful resource. 

o   Information on incorporating sound reduction in homes can be found in “Guidelines for Sound Insulation of Residences Exposed to Aircraft Operations” available at:  http://www.faa.gov/airports/resources/advisory_circulars/index.cfm/go/document.information/documentNumber/150_5000-9A.

·         Regarding hearing conservation and protection, the choice of hearing protection is a very personal one and depends on a number of factors including level of noise, comfort, and the suitability of the hearing protection for the individual’s activities when being worn. 

o   If you are concerned about hearing conservation, ear plugs and ear muffs are relatively inexpensive and are available for purchase on-line and from many stores, including hardware stores, sporting goods stores and drug stores. 

o   In areas where noise levels are very high, muffs and plugs can be worn together to give better protection.

 

Q:  Why is the Navy not considering any new technologies or operational procedures that would reduce Sailor or community noise impacts, such as Chevrons?

A:  The Navy is actively investigating solutions to reduce overall sound emissions from the engines of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler in addition to proficiency optimization measure that may reduce the number of field carrier landing practice (FCLP) required.  The Navy continues to identify and employ noise mitigating operational procedures.

New Technology:

·         Chevrons are specially designed shapes installed in the jet engine exhaust nozzle for sound reduction.  While chevrons are safe and widely used in commercial aviation, more redesign and testing is necessary to assess the noise-reduction potential in a high-performance application needed for military aircraft.

o   Initial testing by the Navy has been promising, but additional development of chevrons for integration on aircraft such as the Growler is still required.

o   The University of Mississippi’s National Center for Physical Acoustics (NCPA) has been funded to perform research, design and scale model testing of a nozzle system for the F/A-18 E/F aircraft and the F414-400 engine that is optimized for both performance and noise reduction.

o   The Navy is also considering engine enhancements for future F/A-18E-G platforms that may also offer potential for reduced engine noise.

o   Again, although this technology may hold promise for future noise reduction, it would be premature to include it in the analysis conducted for this EIS.

·         The Navy continues to review and adjust operational processes to minimize impacts to the public where possible.

o   Then Navy publishes flight schedules a week in advance and we work with school and community contacts to adjust our flights if weather conditions allow.

§  Sunday Operations:  From 7:30 a.m. to noon local on Sundays, noise-abatement procedures require arrivals, except scheduled FCLP/CCA aircraft, VR-61 drilling reservists, and VP-69 drilling reservists, to make full-stop landings.

§  Due to noise-abatement procedures, high-power turn-ups should not be conducted prior to noon on Sundays or between the hours of 10:00 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. for jets and midnight to 7:30 a.m. for turboprops.  For specific operational necessities, high-power turn-ups may be authorized outside these established hours.

§  It is the policy of NAS Whidbey Island to investigate complaints to determine compliance with FAA regulations and base standard operating procedures.  Persons with complaints or comments may call a recorded complaint hotline at (360) 257-6665 or email: comments.NASWI@navy.mil.

§  The public has the ability to sign up for operational notifications through the public affairs website.

o   The Navy routinely reviews flight patterns and makes adjustments to those patterns where possible to minimize operational impacts.

§  The maximum number of aircraft in the FCLP flight pattern is five.  This is so the FCLP pattern stays within the 5-mile radius of the class “Charlie” airspace, aircraft do not get extended creating additional noise impacts, and allowances may be made for non-FCLP aircraft to operate concurrently.

§  Avoiding noise-sensitive and wilderness areas by flying at altitudes of no less than 3,000 feet AGL except when in compliance with an approved traffic or approach pattern, military training route, or within Special Use Airspace.

o   Aircrews shall, to the maximum extent possible, employ prudent airmanship techniques to reduce aircraft noise impacts and to avoid noise-sensitive areas except when being specifically directed by the control tower.

§  When flying what’s known as a Ground Control Approach (GCA) box pattern we request wheels remain up to minimize noise associated with this longer pattern.

§  Wind component and traffic permitting, morning departures prior to 8:00 a.m. shall use Runway 25, and evening arrivals after 10:00 p.m. shall use Runway 7 to maximize flight over open water.

§  Make smooth power changes.  Large, abrupt changes in power result in large, abrupt changes in sound level on the ground.

o   NAS Whidbey Island has historically worked with elected officials from surrounding communities to best minimize impacts from aircraft operations.

§  The Navy has an active AICUZ program that informs the public about its aircraft noise environment and recommends specific actions for the local jurisdictions with planning and zoning authority that can enhance the health, safety, and welfare of those living near Ault Field and Coupeville. A review of the AICUZ is anticipated upon completion of this project.

Q: Current Growler noise is from twin F414 engines w/ 17,000 lb. of thrust each.  Is the Navy upgrading to a louder F414 enhanced engine with 26,000 lb. of thrust?

A: Navy EA-18G Growlers use two F414-GE-400 Engines, which were studied in the Noise Analysis found in Appendix A of the Final EIS.  There is no program to purchase different engines at this time.  The Navy is continuing to explore different technologies to reduce noise impacts from aircraft.  Testing confirmed that chevron technology has some positive effect on reducing noise output.  At the Navy’s request, Congress authorized funding for testing chevron technology using the F414 engine.  However, redesign of the F414 engine and additional testing are necessary to fully assess any noise-reduction benefits before a new engine design is procured and installed in FA-18 E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growler aircraft.

Q. The stated reason for the delay in the release of the Final EIS was primarily that the Navy wanted to incorporate new data from the integration of Precision Landing Mode (PLM) or MAGIC CARPET into the fleet.  What impact did you find from PLM?

A.  Precision Landing Mode (PLM) is being integrated into the fleet to include Growler aircraft, and the integration to this point has been very successful.  Also known as MAGIC CARPET ( an acronym for Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies), is a pilot-in-the-loop integrated direct lift control system which makes aircraft carrier approaches and landings more automated, resulting in a safer environment for Navy and Marine Corps pilots. 

o   In addition, the technology potentially reduces the workload and training required for pilots to develop and maintain proficiency at shipboard landings.

o   This decreased training requirement will reduce the Navy’s Field Carrier Landing Practice requirement by a conservative estimate of 20 percent.  This reduction is incorporated into the analysis in the Final EIS.

o   Results from the integration of PLM at this point indicate that for a typical first tour pilot, FCLP can be safely reduced by one FCLP period (8-10 landings) (a reduction from six FCLP periods to five)

o   For an experienced pilot, the reduction in the FCLP requirement would be from the current four FCLP periods to three.  Although no reduction in the FCLP requirement is envisioned for Fleet Replacement Squadron pilots, the aggregate reduction in the FCLP requirement is conservatively estimated at 20 percent. 

o   For NASWI, this reduction means instead of the 42,000 FCLP operations analyzed in the Draft EIS, the Final EIS analyzes 30,000 annual FCLP operations (this number of operations also is effected by the reduction in pilots per CVN squadron from what was analyzed in the Draft EIS).

 

Q:  How are the two aircraft different?  The Growler is obviously louder than the Prowler!

A:  The difference between EA-18G and F/A-18E/F aircraft is the mission-related electronics inside each aircraft.

·         The EA-18G Growler’s noise profile was developed based on the existing F/A18F Super Hornet, a proven aircraft platform, sharing the same airframe, same engine, and having approximately the same in-flight weight. 

o   In 1997, the acoustic data for F/A-18E/F Super Hornet was collected at NAS Patuxent River, MD using a microphone array at the airfield. 

o   This acoustic data was validated with a second series of measurements conducted at NAS Lemoore in November 2000. 

o   The acoustic data was then incorporated into the Department of Defense database for future use in noise modeling. 

o   To support the upcoming Growler acoustic analysis, operational flight profiles were developed based on numerous pilot interviews regarding flight parameters (e.g., engine power settings, aircraft speed and altitudes) for different flight procedures (e.g., normal flight, departures, arrivals, and field carrier landing practice). 

o   These profiles were validated with data from F/A-18F aircrews at NAS Lemoore.

·         Extensive noise analyses were completed at the onset of planning for NASWI’s transition from the EA-6B Prowler to the EA-18G Growler in order to investigate potential changes in noise impacts at NASWI and OLF Coupeville.

o   Additional flyover and ground run-up noise data were collected for the EA-6B in 2003 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point to update the original EA-6B noise profiles using the same noise measuring and data collection procedures used for the F/A-18E/F measurements in 1997 and 2000.

o   These updated EA-6B reference noise data were utilized for all noise analyses.

·         With updated reference noise data available, an operational noise comparison between the EA-6B and EA-18G was conducted for NASWI and OLF Coupeville in May 2004. 

o   This study evaluated and compared the noise modeled from normal flight operations and ground run-ups of the EA-6B and EA-18G. 

o   Flight operations included departures, arrivals, field carrier landing practice (FCLP) and ground control approach (GCA) box patterns. 

o   For this 2004 study, it was assumed that no net change in the number of flight operations would exist between the two variants. 

§  The comparisons of sound levels clearly demonstrated that the EA-18G generated less flight noise than the EA-6B. 

§  This noise reduction is driven by the better flight characteristics of the EA-18G.

·         In addition, the legacy EA-6B required significantly more annual maintenance operations than the EA-18G Growler, so a comparison in noise exposure during ground maintenance run-up operations of both variants was conducted. 

o   This metric takes into account the loud run-up operations along with their durations and how often they occur. 

o   This comparison showed that cumulative noise from ground maintenance run-up operations would be reduced in the EA-18G as well. 

§  This reduction is primarily due to a significant decrease in the number of maintenance operations for the EA-18G.

 

Q:  What does it mean to be 1-2 dB louder?

A:  Most people cannot detect a 1-2 dB increase in noise.

·         A 3 dB increase is barely discernable by most individuals.

 

Q:  How are noise contours determined – how are they figured?

A:  Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) noise contours are developed by a computerized simulation of aircraft activity at an installation and reflect airfield-specific operational data based on average annual number of 24-hour day operations. 

·         Operational data includes flight tracks, type and mix of aircraft, aircraft profiles (airspeed, altitude, and power settings), frequency and times of operation. 

·         Operations occurring between 10 pm and 7 am incur a 10dB noise penalty as these operations occur during sleeping hours for most people. 

·         Typically, noise contours of DNL 60, 65, 70, 75, and 80 are plotted on maps for Navy and Marine Corps air installations.

 

Q:  What is the difference between DNL and SEL measurements?

A:  DNL (Day-Night Average Sound Level) is an average of individual noise events and accounts for the intensity, duration, number of events, and time of day.  SEL (sound exposure level) represents a single noise event that accounts for the intensity and duration of a noise event. 

·         An example of an SEL measurement would be a recorded dB measurement of an aircraft flying over a house.

·         An example of DNL would be that same SEL measure daily for a year averaged to one

Q:  Why does the Navy insist on using a day/night average?  It is the actual sound that matters to the community – the Navy should indicate what the true impacts are.

A:  Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) is accepted by the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration as the standard measure of the community’s response to noise. 

·         It provides a standard that can be compared. 

o   Would suggest providing a comparison here of ambient noise measure as a starting point comparison.

·         DNL takes all those factors that influence our perception of noise – loudness, number and duration of events, and time of day – and includes them all in one metric which is used for determining land use compatibility. 

·         The Navy does not rely only on DNL, however, it also uses metrics such as sound exposure level (SEL) to reflect single event noise. 

o   SEL is useful in determining sleep disturbance and speech interference.

 

Q:  Why can’t the Navy buy land impacted by noise in the community?

A:  The Navy is not authorized to purchase land without approval from Congress

·         Obtaining funding from Congress would be difficult to justify because the Navy does not have an operational need for additional land.

·         Through the DoD’s REPI program, the Navy has been able to protect land under the primary flight corridors at both Ault Field and OLF Coupeville.  To date, the Navy has invested $13.8M in direct payments for conservation easements to landowners willing to maintain compatible uses within established flight corridors.

Acquisition programs and roll-back incentives are not currently available around Ault Field and OLF Coupeville, but they are possible tools that other states and municipalities have developed and successfully implemented to purchased developed properties.  By combining land use controls, an acquisition program and roll-back incentives, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Cities of Virginia Beach and Chesapeake have achieved a decrease in population density and incompatible land used by investing $10M/year for the last 10-years around NAS Oceana and NOLF Fentress.  Their program has received national recognition.

 

Q:  Has the Navy worked with realtors to let people know they are living near an active military air field?

A:  Yes.  The Navy has worked with local communities, including realtors, to help people understand the impacts that are an inherent part of aviation operations.

·         A result of that cooperative relationship on Island County is the noise disclosure form residents sign when they buy or rent property with the noise zones, including OLF Coupeville. 

o   Disclosure notices are included in every property sale, lease, or rental agreement signed on Whidbey Island from Deception Pass Bridge south to Greenbank. 

 

Q:  Why did the base go to an automated comment line, which includes complaints about noise and OLF operations? 

A:  NASWI established a new comment line process in an effort to improve service to local communities and enhance our focus on airfield safety and noise concerns. 

·         The new process includes a new automated comment line and email address where community members can express their thoughts, concerns and issues.

·         Using this method allows members of the public an opportunity to provide concentrated and comprehensive feedback regarding their noise concerns. 

o   It also allows the command’s operations duty officers with a more effective means of monitoring and tracking noise concerns. 

 

Q:  What do you do when I call in and tell you that a pilot is flying over my house?

A:  When we are notified of a flight concern outside of established flight paths, the command air operations duty officer examines the location and contacts the landing signal officer to contact the pilots to get them to alter course

·         The information is then passed to the squadron duty officer to ensure pilots adhere to local flight paths for future sorties.

·         Typical flight paths are 1.5 miles abeam (parallel) of the runway and while not always in the same line, pilots should roughly be flying in the same general swath.

 

Q:  What will the addition of these new aircraft do to the noise at Ault Field?  What about Coupeville?

A:  A thorough noise analysis has been conducted as part of this EIS to answer those questions.  

 

Q:  What are the findings concerning potential hearing loss?

A:  There is an increase in the population within the 80 dB DNL noise contour (i.e., potential at-risk population) under Alternative 1 at both Ault Field and OLF Coupeville.  The largest increase in the potential at-risk population in the vicinity of Ault Field would be under Scenario C (56 additional people) and for OLF Coupeville would be under Scenario A (130 additional people). 

·         The range of potential Noise-induced permanent threshold shifts (NIPTS) could be up to 9.5 dB at Ault Field and 7.5 dB at OLF Coupeville. 

·         The potential NIPTS values presented are only applicable in the extreme case of outdoor exposure at one’s residence to all aircraft events occurring over a period of 40 years. 

·         As it is highly unlikely any individuals would meet all those criteria, the actual potential NIPTS for most individuals would be less than the values reported here

 

Q:  Does the aircraft noise interfere with the education of my children?

A:  Most schools would experience close to ambient levels of 45dB or less, which would not impact learning and conversation. 

·         Given the relatively cool climate in the area, it is likely that windows at schools would be closed a majority of the time.

·         Many modern schools have central air conditioning and heating systems; therefore, it is more likely that classroom windows would remain closed the majority of the time.

o   Crescent Harbor Elementary School would experience the highest noise impact under all scenarios when windows are open.

o   Oak Harbor High School and Crescent Harbor Elementary School under Scenario C and Coupeville Elementary under Scenario A shows the highest increase of classroom learning interference, at an additional three events per hour (with windows open). 

Under the windows-closed condition, none of the schools would be expected to experience more than one additional event per hour of classroom learning interference, with most being unchanged.  When schools notify us about their testing schedules, we adjust our flights if weather conditions allow.

 

 

Health Effects

Q:  Does this EIS analysis include exposure risks to humans?  And what about animals?

A:  The Navy has prepared a noise study in the preparation of this EIS. 

·         The noise study evaluated the health, safety, and well-being of citizens in and around NASWI.

o   The Day Night Average Sound Level (DNL) is the standard metric used by many federal and state governmental agencies and organizations such as the EPA and the FAA for assessing aircraft noise. 

o   DNL encompasses impacts to humans based on general annoyance induced by varying sound exposure. 

·         Then noise analysis included in the EIS includes discussion of non-auditory health effects and the effects of noise on the following:  performance; children; domestic animals and wildlife; property values; structural integrity; terrain; and historical and archaeological sites. 

o   Impacts to fish and wildlife are also evaluated in the EIS, specifically through analysis within the document and consultation and coordination with federal and state agencies.

 

Q:  What are the noise impact guidelines?

A:  The 1982 U.S. EPA Guidelines for Noise Impact Analysis provides that people who experience continuous, daily exposure to high noise over a normal working lifetime of 40 years, with exposure lasting 8 hours per day for 5 days per week, beginning at an age of 20 years old, may be at risk for a type of hearing loss called Noise Induced Permanent Threshold Shift (NIPTS). NIPTS defines a permanent change in hearing level, or threshold, caused by exposure to noise (USEPA, 1982). 

·         This workplace exposure standard, which is being applied to outdoor noise levels, is not intended to accurately describe the impact of intermittent noise events such as periodic aircraft overflights but is presented as a “worst-case” analytical tool. 

o   For context, the national average of time spent indoors is approximately 87 percent (or almost 21 hours of the day) (Klepeis et al., n.d.).  

o   With intermittent aircraft operations and the time most people spend indoors, it is very unlikely that individuals would experience noise exposure that would result in hearing loss. 

·         It is highly unlikely any individuals would meet all the criteria of being outdoors at one’s residence and exposed to all aircraft events over a 40-year period; therefore, the actual potential NIPTS for most individuals would be less than the values reported in the EIS.   

o   This analysis is provided per DoD policy directive to support informed decision making.  

 

Q:  We believe the Growler operations are harmful to the health of members of our community.  Why will the Navy not acknowledge that?

A:  Although the research that has been conducted to date on the health effects of aircraft noise is inconclusive, the Navy has conducted a review of the current and available literature on this subject as part of the EIS. 

·         It is important to keep in mind that many of the studies that have been conducted on this subject have focused on very busy commercial airports, conducting 300,000 annual operations or more annually, unlike a Navy OLF that conducts far fewer operations, with busy periods followed by times with little or no activity. 

·         It is also important to remember that the Navy has been flying the Super Hornet aircraft – an aircraft with the same airframe and the same engines (and therefore, the same noise impacts) as the Growler – at air stations throughout the nation for well over a decade.

o   At many of these installations – NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va., is one example – the population density in the area is far greater than that of either Oak Harbor or Coupeville. 

·         As part of the EIS the Navy has examined the most current and available peer-reviewed literature on this subject as part of the EIS, but did not conduct an independent health effects study.

·         Airfield noise can disrupt conversations and sleep, but these are not long-term health effects.

 

Q: Do Growlers cause health impacts including, cognitive impairment and cardiovascular disease?

A:  Research does not support a significant causal link between aircraft noise and non-auditory health effects.  Individual health is greatly influenced by many confounding factors known to cause health issues (e.g., heredity, medical history, smoking, diet, and exercise).  These factors have a larger, more direct effect on an individual’s health than intermittent exposure to aircraft noise.  (See Appendix A.8 of Final EIS for more detail.)

While flight operations have been ongoing since the 1960s and the Growler has been flying at Whidbey Island since 2008, a review of health factors and student scholastic metrics as part of the NEPA analysis found that:

o     Island County is one of the healthiest places to live and work based on information collected from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, WA Dept. of Health, and other sources.

o     The medical and scientific communities will continue to conduct research and generate new data in an effort to expand and improve their understanding of non-auditory health effects.  Thus, the Navy will continue to review newly published research and peer-reviewed journal articles to evaluate how the latest information applies to and informs the Navy’s noise analysis under NEPA and AICUZ processes. 

Q: Do children exposed to Growler flights have decreased reading comprehension (below average when exposure greater than 55 dB and each increase of 5 dB causes delayed reading age by 1-2 months? Do they also have impaired cognition and memory?

A:  There are many reasons for academic success, such as an engaging curriculum, teacher experience, parental involvement, students’ attitudes toward education, and school environment.  So while some studies suggest the possibility of decreased reading comprehension due to chronic exposure to aircraft noise, a review of scholastic performance of third graders through twelfth graders demonstrates that Island County students are more academically successful than many of their peers living in the state of Washington.  See Appendix A1 and Appendix I, Table 2 in the Final EIS for more information.

Q: Will water contamination occur due to use of firefighting foam when a crash occurs or when fuel is dumped by aircraft?

A:  The Navy is taking action to reduce potential releases of firefighting foam (also known as AFFF or aqueous film-forming foam) into the environment.  Consistent with Navy policy, these actions include ceasing uncontrolled environmental release of firefighting foam, ceasing training with firefighting foam, and ensuring that firefighting foam systems have appropriate controls in place to prevent a release.  If an incident occurs that necessitates the use of firefighting foam, the Navy will contain and capture the released firefighting foam to the maximum extent practical to ensure limited infiltration into the soil and/or groundwater.

Fuel dumping is a rare occurrence that is not part of training activities and is governed by FAA and Navy rules.  Navy pilots are prohibited from dumping fuel at altitudes below 8,000 feet above ground level, except in an emergency situation.  See section 4.4/Air Quality and Section 4.15/Hazardous Materials and Waste of the Final EIS for more information.


Q:  Did the Navy conduct a comprehensive health study as part of the EIS?

A:  No.  The Navy has examined the most current and available literature on this subject as part of the EIS, but did not conduct an independent health effects study. 

·         There is no consensus within the scientific community that supports a relationship between aircraft noise exposure and non-auditory health impacts for residents living near military airfields.

·         Such a study, to have any rigor or scientific validity, would have to be conducted over many years or even decades.

o   Separating the effect of aircraft noise from other auditory sources and other environmental factors is difficult. 

o   A person’s lifestyle, hereditary factors, and life stressors also influence the results of studies making it difficult to study aviation noise health effects.

·         NEPA does not require the Navy to conduct its own health effects study, only to incorporate a review of existing studies that have been performed.

·         The Defense Noise Working Group (DNWG) has developed guidance for using supplemental tools and metrics for noise analysis in order to measure community annoyance, potential hearing loss, sleep disturbance, and speech interference. 

o   The guide can be found at http://www.denix.osd.mil/dnwg/Documents.cfm

 

Q:  Has the Navy included the Dahlgren study as part of this EIS?

A:  Navy medical experts have reviewed the Dahlgren study, along with other current and available literature on possible health impacts from aircraft noise. 

·         The Navy’s review of the Dahlgren study is included in the appendix to this EIS. 

·         Navy medical experts found the methodology of the Dahlgren study to be flawed in many respects, and strongly disagree with the study’s conclusions, which are inconsistent with most of the peer-reviewed studies that have been conducted to date on this subject. 

 

Q:  Doesn’t this aircraft noise at periodic high levels injure our hearing?

A:  Auditory Impacts from noise to the community is not likely. 

·         Research on the effect of airborne noise on hearing normally involves workplace related noise, where individuals are exposed to high levels of noise for a continuous, period, such as individuals who work in industrial settings.

Natural Resources

Q:  Isn’t the Navy putting the community at risk by flying over Ebey’s Reserve, an area where a number of species of birds frequent?  Is this the Navy’s environmental stewardship?

A:  The Navy goes to great lengths to protect its people, aircraft, local populations and wildlife from inadvertent collisions.

·         NAS Whidbey has a world-class program to minimize bird and animal strikes.

o   A full-time USDA Wildlife Biologist works at NASWI managing our Bird Air Strike Hazard program.

o   The BASH program is comparable to commercial airport wildlife management and is carried out by the same regulatory agency the USFWS.

·         The Navy has a NASWI Integrated Natural and Cultural Resources Management Plan that promotes environmental stewardship and regulatory agency collaboration.

o   The INRMP is reviewed and coordinated through USFWS and the Washington State Dept of Wildlife annually to ensure agreement with wildlife management techniques and to provide any update or change to wildlife management at NASWI.

o   NASWI uses several different techniques to reduce wildlife strikes including habitat modification, trapping and relocation of bald eagles to remote locations.

·         At the entrance to the public meeting there are posters highlighting several aspects of NASWI’s environmental program.

o   We have natural resource specialists on staff here at NASWI.

o   We partner with the community to improve natural resources inside and outside the base boundaries.

NASWI has been recognized four times since 2012 for excellence in Community Service and Environmental Stewardship.

It has earned numerous other environmentally related awards the past three years including Installation Excellence in 2016 and 2018, the Secretary of the Navy Energy Award in 2016, The CNO Environmental Award for Natural Resources, and the Secretary of the Navy’s Environmental Award for Cultural Resources Management in 2017.

Q: What is the Growler’s impacts on Greenhouse gas emissions?

 

A:  Aircraft operations from NAS Whidbey Island are approximately 10% of all flights (private, commercial and military) in Puget Sound Region. This question was studied in Section 4.16 in the Final EIS.  The change in GHG emissions from the Proposed Action would only result in a small percentage (under 1%) of total aircraft GHG emissions in the State of Washington (See Table 4.16-2 of the Final EIS).  Therefore, the GHG emissions from this Proposed Action should not have a significant impact on Washington’s GHG emission goals.

 

Q:  What is the Navy doing to control noxious weeds? 

A:  NASWI focuses on high priority invasive plant and noxious weed species control on tansy ragwort, gorse, poison hemlock, Canada thistle and Spartina.

·         The Navy cooperates with the Washington Dept. of Agriculture, Washington State Dept of Wildlife and the Island County noxious weed coordinator for Spartina monitoring and control.

·         Limited funding and timing of available funding restricts the Navy’s ability to spray the entire installation and areas of applications are prioritized to receive the highest cost benefit. 

·         Several methods of control are used for noxious weeds:

o   Chemicals are chosen primarily for their effectiveness and for minimal potential environmental impact.

o   Mowing also plays an important role in preventing the spread of weeds and also supports the Bird Air Strike Hazard program.

 

Q:  What is the Navy doing about weed control?

A:  NASWI receives limited funding to control noxious weeds for improvement of wildlife habitat on Navy managed lands. 

·         To help prioritize our weed management, NASWI Public Works Department coordinates with Island County and refers to the Island County Noxious Weed List

·         The list classifies certain plants as Class A, B, or C weeds.

·         State law requires the Navy to focus their effort (spraying and mowing) on Class A weeds first, then Class B weeds etc. 

o   The Canada thistle found at OLF Coupeville is on the Class C list leaving it a lesser priority than species such as gorse, poison hemlock and tansy ragwort.

 

Q:  Has the Navy discussed the proposed action with the regulators and state wildlife departments?

A:  The Navy has engaged in consultation with the regulators. 

·         Federal and state regulators reviewed the EIS and our consultation packages to include Biological Assessments.

 

Q:  Do the regulators agree with the Navy’s EIS findings?

A: 

Throughout the NEPA process, the Navy has coordinated with all federal regulators and state resource agencies, as well as the eight federally recognized Tribes.  The FEIS documents all coordination and consultations efforts with the Tribes, EPA, NPS, USFWS, NMFS, WA Dept. of Ecology, Northwest Clean Air Agency, WA Dept. of Health and others with respect to Tribal resources, coastal zone, air quality, endangered species and historic properties.   

In general, most animals habituate to intermittent aircraft noise.  The Navy has consulted with NMFS and USFWS on endangered species.  These agencies have concurred with the Navy’s determination that the Proposed Action may affect but is not likely to adversely affect southern resident killer whale, humpback whale and nine fish species.  Furthermore, the USFWS has issued a non-jeopardy opinion with respect to the marbled murrelet.  The decline of marbled murrelet populations is primarily attributed to the loss of habitat, nest predation, and degradation of marine conditions affecting prey resources.

WA Dept of Ecology invited public comment on the Navy’s finding and subsequently agreed with Navy’s Proposed Action was consistent to the maximum extent possible with respect to the state’s coastal zone management program.

 

Q:  Does the aircraft training affect the whales and endangered species in our bays and offshore areas? Have you consulted with NMFS?

A:   Our analysis concludes that there is a “may affect but not to adversely affect” finding for the whales and endangered species.Yes, we have completed our consultation efforts with NMFS and other federal regulators and state resource agencies 

·         The species that are included in our consultations include the following:

o   Marbled Murrelet

o   Bull Trout

o   Green Sturgeon

o   Eulachon

o   Chinook and Chum Salmon

o   Steelhead

o   Bocaccio, Canary, and Yelloweye Rockfish

o   Southern resident killer Whale

o   Humpback Whale

 

Q:  How is NASWI is a good environmental steward?

A:  NASWI has been recognized four times since 2012 for excellence in Community Service and Environmental Stewardship.

It has earned numerous other environmentally related awards the past three years including Installation Excellence in 2016 and 2018, the Secretary of the Navy Energy Award in 2016, The CNO Environmental Award for Natural Resources, and the Secretary of the Navy’s Environmental Award for Cultural Resources Management in 2017.NASWI has a professional and dedicated staff made up of biologists, cultural resource experts, environmental compliance inspectors and NEPA practitioners. 

·         We have partnered with the community and the regulators to accomplish several outstanding environmental projects.

·         Each year, NASWI personnel donate thousands of hours of community volunteer support activities in the local community.

 

Q:  How can you knowingly destroy our environment?  Don’t you care as a professional? 

A:  The environmental staff at NASWI works diligently with the regulators and community to protect, preserve and enhance our environment. 

NASWI has been recognized four times since 2012 for excellence in Community Service and Environmental Stewardship.

o   It has earned numerous other environmentally related awards the past three years including Installation Excellence in 2016 and 2018, the Secretary of the Navy Energy Award in 2016, The CNO Environmental Award for Natural Resources, and the Secretary of the Navy’s Environmental Award for Cultural Resources Management in 2017.NASWI has a professional and dedicated staff made up of biologists, cultural resource experts, environmental compliance inspectors and NEPA practitioners. 

o   We have partnered with the community and the regulators to accomplish several outstanding environmental projects (list….)

o   Each year, NASWI personnel donate thousands of  hours of community volunteer support activities

Q:  Do you live here?  I don’t see how you could live here!

A:  Yes, the NASWI staff lives in and around NASWI.  We are experienced professionals and we work diligently to protect our natural resources and improve our environment both on-base and in our community. 

·         We also work with our state and federal regulators routinely to ensure compliance with threatened and endangered species regulations and to consult on future natural resource plans and projects.

 

Community Resources

Q:  What effect will more base personnel have on our local schools and services?

A:   The increase in “federally connected students” attending local district schools would result in a corresponding increase in federal impact aid received by the district. However, federal impact aid typically does not cover the full per-pupil costs experienced by the district and has been declining over time.

·         Because state aid and federal impact aid has been at a static or declining per-pupil level, additional local funding sources would likely be required to finance the additional expenditures, if present programing is to be maintained.

·         Additional schools would need to be built, additional portable classrooms would have to be purchased, and/or additional reconfiguring of the district’s schools would have to occur to accommodate these students. 

o   Most impact is with Oak Harbor School District with the majority of the additional students in elementary school age.

·         Additional staff would also be required to handle the increase in enrollment. 

·         The provision of medical services and fire and rescue services and police protection are not expected to be significantly impacted. 

 

Q:  What will be the impact to my taxes?

A:  The increase of personnel at the NAS Whidbey Island complex would have a positive impact on the generation of tax revenues in Island and Skagit Counties and on the State of Washington as a whole under all three alternatives. 

·         Because the majority of the additional personnel currently do not reside in Washington or in Island or Skagit Counties, any taxes these individuals pay would represent a net increase in revenues for the state and local areas. 

·         Property tax and sales tax receipts would all increase as a direct result of the expanded regional economy.

·         The action alternatives would have moderate short-term positive impact and a minor positive long-term impact on the local and regional economy.

 

Q:  What effect will more base personnel have on our traffic?  Was this additional traffic considered in the EIS and the air emissions?

A:  Construction impacts would result in increased traffic on and off the installation, but roadways would be able to handle the increase. 

·         An increase in personnel and dependents would result in an increase in traffic on local roads.

·         Traffic would be spread throughout roads in Island and Skagit Counties, and, although there would be some degradation of service, it would not be expected to result in level of service falling below established level of service standards.

o   An area of concern at the intersection of SR 20 and Banta Road would see an increase however, a traffic signal will be installed by 2021.

o   An increase in gate traffic of approximately 3 to 8 percent is expected

o   Traffic volumes entering and exiting the installation may result in queuing of vehicles, but this would be limited to peak hours.

o   No significant increase in use of transit, pedestrian, and bicycle facilities would occur because the majority of new traffic would be car based.

 

Q:  Will the aircraft operations affect Driftwood Park and Oak Harbor Off-leash Dog Park? 

A:  The data show that there is a range of potential outdoor speech interference that may disturb individuals participating in outdoor recreational activities depending on the park location in relation to the airfields and flight tracks.

·         Driftwood Park would be the most affected, with impacts on this park as long term and moderate or significant.

·         Oak Harbor Off-leash Dog Park could have localized significant impacts under Alternative 3 Scenario C as a result of increased annual average noise levels.

 

 

Q:  Won’t there be more crime with more people in our county? 

A: The relocation of Growler aircraft squadrons and associated personnel positions to the NASWI complex is not anticipated to significantly impact Oak Harbor’s or Coupeville’s ability to provide adequate police protection to its residents.

·         There is potential for a portion of the additional tax revenues that would be paid by the relocating households and the additional tax revenues that would be generated by the increased economic activity associated with the construction and operations could be used to hire more police officers to continue a similar level of police protection.

 

Q:  I think your Navy aircraft operations are interrupting my TV signal, why is this happening?

A:  Navy aircraft operations at NASWI do not interfere with TV signals.

 

Q:  Is there a way to stop the aircraft training over our little league ballfields at game time?

A:  NAS Whidbey Island has historically worked with elected officials from surrounding communities to best minimize impacts where practicable, including not flying at the OLF on weekends and minimizing flight activity during major school testing dates and major community events.

·         The Navy will continue to minimize impacts as much as possible. 

 

Litigation (for Legal rovers)

Q:  Is there an avenue to file a claim against the Navy because of health impacts and loss of property values because of the noise?

A:  Individuals who believe they have a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) may file their claim with the Tort Claims Unit of the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy. 

·         Please visit the following website for more information:  www.jag.navy.mil/organization/code_15_packets_forms.htm

 

Q:  Did you prepare this EIS in response to the litigation filed by COER in 2013?

A:  Decisions that were made by the Navy regarding current Growler requirements, current Growler operations, future operations and realignment of aircraft, and initiation of the EIS were made independent of any litigation, in fact, the EIS was in the initial planning stages before COER initiated its lawsuit in 2013.

 

 

Land Use

Q:  I want to move, but can’t sell my house.  Will the Navy compensate me for the value of my property?

A:  No. Absent specific authority by Congress, the Navy does not have the authority to purchase homes or land outright. 

·         Real property values are dynamic and influenced by a combination of factors, including market conditions, neighborhood characteristics, and individual real property characteristics (e.g., the age of the property, its size, and amenities). 

·         The degree to which a particular factor may affect property values is influenced by many other factors that fluctuate widely with time and market conditions.

 

General

 

Q:  Doesn’t the Navy realize there is tremendous opposition to Coupeville OLF and how it is responsible for causing divisiveness in our community?

A:  We understand that some people are concerned about a proposed increase in OLF Coupeville operations.

·         The Navy strives to be a good neighbor, our service members, civilian employees and their families live in the community. 

·         OLF Coupeville has supported critical training since 1943.

·         The flight training conducted at OLF Coupeville and Ault Field is a component of critical carrier deployment requirements, a key mission at NASWI.

·         The Navy also recognizes – and appreciates – the great support NASWI receives from the community, including Coupeville.

·        

 

Q:  How does Growler noise impact an outdoor-based economy (a recreation valued of $26 billion for the State of Washington)?

A:  Deception Pass State Park, near NAS Whidbey Island, is the most visited state park in Washington and the outdoor-based economy in Island County is valued at $ 55 Million and $ 60 Million in San Juan County from 1997 to 2014 (as depicted in Figure 4.10-1 in the Final EIS).  The Navy studied the potential impacts of Growler FCLP operations on the recreation industry in the Final EIS and found that while some visitors may perceive a change in the quality of a visitor experience, a reduction in tourism expenditures is not anticipated based on historical evidence.  Historical trends indicate that Navy’s presence is completely compatible with outdoor-based recreation economy.

Furthermore, aircraft operations are highly intermittent and the Navy publishes FCLP schedules weekly to inform the public if and when (i.e., approximate times and dates) they may hear FCLPs to inform their activities.  FCLP operations occur in concentrate periods followed by days, weeks and months with little to no aircraft activity at OLF Coupeville.  A socioeconomic review determined an overall increase in travel- and tourism-related spending, earnings and tax receipts in the three affected counties (Island, Skagit, San Juan Counties) over the past decades, even with the increased Growler operations.  See Sections 3.10 and 4.10 in the Final EIS for more information.

Q:  The Navy should put NASWI on the BRAC list.  All the other communities that closed military bases have had positive economic impacts.  Why doesn’t the Navy just close Whidbey and move its operations to locations where it won’t be hazards to civilians?

A:  The NASWI/OLF Coupeville complex fills a vital mission for the Navy and the nation as a sole home base for the Navy’s Growler aircraft, and the West Coast home base for P-8A aircraft. 

·         The Base Re-alignment and Closure (BRAC) process is a congressionally mandated action to close or realign existing military facilities to eliminate excess capacity.

o   NASWI was considered for closure during a previous BRAC process but was deemed a mission critical Navy asset and removed.

·         A 2004 Washington State study concluded that more than 85% of all local economic activity in Island County was directly or indirectly tied to NASWI. (any more recent data?)

Q:  Doesn’t all this training cost the taxpayers a lot of money?

A:  Since landing an aircraft on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier – especially at night – is one of the most challenging and demanding tasks in aviation, it is imperative that our pilots are able to practice this perishable skill ashore in the most realistic conditions possible before actually doing so aboard on an aircraft carrier.

·         Even in a period of challenging fiscal conditions, our men and women conduct training in order to perform their jobs safely and to maintain proficiency.

·         OLF Coupeville fulfills the critical training requirement to conduct Fleet Carrier Landing Practice in order for NASWI aircrews to qualify for aircraft carrier landing operations.

·         Having Outlying Landing Fields near a carrier squadron’s home base keeps costs down and saves millions of dollars by not having pilots fly hundreds of miles away to conduct training. 

 

Q:  If the Navy doesn’t care about its own people, how can we even believe what you tell us now?

A:  It is a priority for the Navy to ensure the well-being of its people…active duty, civilian employees and family members….as well as individuals residing in the communities surrounding its installations. 

·         The Navy strives to be a good neighbor wherever it conducts operations, and will continue to make every attempt to minimize noise impacts to nearby communities while meeting its training requirements.

·         Additionally, the Navy works with communities to encourage compatible land use development within the noise zones, through the use of zoning and other land use planning tools.

 

Q:  Do you live near the OLF?  Why not?

A1:  Several NASWI employees, as well as retired personnel chose to live near OLF Coupeville, Admiral’s Cove is right under the flight path for the approach and departure ends of the landing field depending upon which runway they use.

·         It is important to remember that the Navy has been flying the Super Hornet aircraft – an aircraft with the same airframe and the same engines (and therefore, the same noise impacts) as the Growler – at air stations throughout the nation for well over a decade. 

·         At many of these installations – NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va., is one example – far more individuals reside in the 65db DNL and above noise contours than in either Oak Harbor or Coupeville. 

 

Q.  Would closing OLF Coupeville put NASWI in danger of closing under the BRAC process?

A:  It would not be appropriate to speculate about any potential future BRAC activity.

·         The BRAC process is a Congressionally mandated action to close or realign existing military facilities to eliminate excess capacity. 

·         NASWI was considered for closure during a previous BRAC process but was deemed a mission critical Navy asset and removed. 

 

Q:  What would happen to the Whidbey Island economy if NASWI closed?

A: NAS Whidbey Island contributes significantly to surrounding economy. Based on a 2004 Washington State study, NASWI accounts for more than 85 percent of all economic activity and 68 percent of all jobs on Whidbey Island; directly or indirectly tied to the base. More recently, a 2017 Economic Analysis conducted by the Island County Economic Development Council’s found that NASWI is four times the size of all other employers in Island, San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties.

The most recent study conducted for the Navy found that NASWI’s impact on the local economy is in the neighborhood of $1.04 billion.

In military compensation alone, the base contributed over $548 million dollars into Island County’s economy in 2017. The number of veterans living near the base is 2.5 times higher than the national average. In 2015 veterans in Island County received $77 million in retirement and disability payments. The base also contributes significantly to education with over 50% of the students in Oak Harbor School District being military dependents. 

 

Regional NEPA Projects

Q:  Why are all these projects in our region not covered in one big EIS?

A:  The Navy prepares separate NEPA documents addressing home basing, training and infrastructure/recapitalization projects because each of these documents is focused on a specific action.  These actions are separated from other actions by their purpose and need, independent utility, timing and geographic location.  While the Navy has analyzed and is currently analyzing, various proposed actions in the area, those proposed actions are not preconditions for Growler operations at NAS Whidbey Island Complex.  Similarly, Growler operations are not a precondition for larger military readiness activities on training complexes in the Pacific Northwest nor for other infrastructure/recapitalization projects at other Naval installations.  Even in the absence of the Proposed Action, military training and recapitalization projects would continue.  The Navy does consider the impacts from past, present and reasonably foreseeable future actions in Chapter 5 of the FEIS.

Q:  By separating all of these projects hasn’t the Navy segmented the NEPA process?

A: The Navy prepares separate NEPA documents addressing home basing, training and infrastructure/recapitalization projects because each of these documents is focused on a specific action.  These actions are separated from other actions by their purpose and need, independent utility, timing and geographic location.  While the Navy has analyzed and is currently analyzing, various proposed actions in the area, those proposed actions are not preconditions for Growler operations at NAS Whidbey Island Complex.  Similarly, Growler operations are not a precondition for larger military readiness activities on training complexes in the Pacific Northwest nor for other infrastructure/recapitalization projects at other Naval installations.  Even in the absence of the Proposed Action, military training and recapitalization projects would continue.  The Navy does consider the impacts from past, present and reasonably foreseeable future actions in Chapter 5 of the FEIS.

 

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