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Washington AG sues Navy over Growler jet expansion on Whidbey Island

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a lawsuit against the Navy over proposed expansion of Growler jet training at Naval Air Station Whidbey.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson is suing the Navy over proposed expansion of Growler airfield operations at Naval Air Station Whidbey.

The Navy authorized the expansion of the Growler EA-18G jet program, increasing takeoffs and landings to nearly 100,000 per year for 30 years. 

The AG's office claims the Navy's environmental review process for the expanded program failed to properly measure impacts to public health and wildlife on the island. 

“The Navy has an important job, and it’s critical that their pilots and crews have the opportunity to train,” Ferguson said. “That does not relieve the federal government of its obligation to follow the law and avoid unnecessary harm to our health and natural resources.”

In the lawsuit, Ferguson argues that the Navy violated the National Environmental Protection Act and Administrative Procedure Act by improperly analyzing the impact of the program. 

The Washington State Department of Health outlined how exposure to noise levels similar to those at the air station could negatively impact health, including sleep, cognitive ability, and cause cardiovascular disease. In the lawsuit, Ferguson says the Navy "failed to complete a thorough analysis of negative impacts on health." 

The lawsuit also asserts the Navy didn't consider measures to protect wildlife and its habitat, including Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve

Ferguson also notified the Navy of additional claims he plans to add to the lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act for the marbled murrelet seabird — unless the government makes changes.

The lawsuit comes after the Navy's top administrator rejected calls for additional noise monitoring of low-flying Growler EA-18G jet training over the island. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer previously said noise impact assessments were already done. 

In a statement, Tuesday, a spokesperson for Naval Air Station Whidbey Island declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit.

"The Navy believes that the Final Environmental Impact Statement is thorough and comprehensive, and addresses all of the comments received during the 6-year project, satisfying the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)," said Thomas Mills, Public Affairs Deputy.

The Navy terminated talks with groups in December about easing the impacts of expanded Growler training at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. 

The Whidbey Island Naval Air Station has conducted training missions at the Outlying Landing Field since the 1960s. It's something the people in rural community located about 20 minutes south of the Navy base have had to live with. However, the Navy is adding 36 EA-18 Growlers to the fleet. More planes mean more training and more noise.

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