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NAS Whidbey plans for more training – and more flyovers

The skies may get a lot noisier over Lopez and San Juan islands.

The Navy plans to increase training for crews at its Northwest Training Range Complex off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

If implemented, exercises by EA-6B Prowlers (and their replacement EA-18 G Growlers) and P-3 Orions (and their replacement P-8A Poseidons) would double at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island from almost 2,300 sorties per year to more than 4,500, according to Navy Region Northwest Public Affairs.

The Northwest Training Range Complex consists of numerous individual training areas in the Pacific Northwest. The range complex extends westward in the Pacific Ocean up to 250 nautical miles beyond the coast of Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

After receiving considerable public feedback about the proposed increase in flights, the Navy extended the public comment period to March 11. The document is the "Northwest Training Range Complex Environmental Impact Statement /

Overseas Environmental Impact Statement (EIS/OEIS)."

To review the document and submit a comment, visit www.NWTRangeComplexEIS.com or write to Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest, 1101 Tautog Circle, Silverdale, WA 98315-1101, Attn: Mrs. Kimberly Kler – NWTRC EIS/OEIS.

Public hearings were held Jan. 27 in Oak Harbor, Jan. 28 in Pacific Beach, Jan. 29 in Aberdeen, Jan. 30 in Newport, Ore., and Feb. 2 in Eureka, Calif.

Patrick Amo owns a home near Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island and has been concerned about increasing overflights and increasing noise over the last two years.

"I have noticed a significant change for the worse in the noise generated by the various aviation activities conducted out of Oak Harbor Naval Air Station," Amo wrote. "Approximately two years ago, I began experiencing the following:

"— A sharp increase in the number of noise events rising above the ambient Island background sound level.

"— A sharp, and I am sure significantly measurable increase, in the decibel level of these individual events.

"— A sharp increase in the number of relatively low level overflights of Lopez Island by military aircraft.

"— A sharp increase in the number of high level overflights of Lopez Island by military aircraft.

"In short, recent OHNAS aviation activity has significantly increased, is much louder, and more disturbing to the peace and quiet so coveted on these islands. And it is about to get much worse."

Amo asks if the FAA and the EPA have reviewed safe noise levels; explored cheaper alternatives, such as virtual training; and considered the environmental impacts.

"I would be very interested to see some figures on, for instance, how much fuel and money would be saved on a yearly basis for every 1 percent of training that is shifted to a virtual environment as opposed to the environment in which we live and sleep and pray?"

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