Group sues Navy for silence

by: Lee Stoll Updated:

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Whidbey Island, Wash. - Neighbors upset about jet noise on Whidbey Island are getting the silence they want--for now. The Navy shut down a training field in Coupeville last week after a group filed a federal lawsuit.

We met Maryon Attwood, a lawsuit supporter at the field. "If the jets were flying would we be able to stand here and talk?" "There's absolutely no way we could talk and hear one another," said Attwood.

Field opponents have posted home videos showing noise from the jets reaching dangerous levels over businesses and nearby baseball fields. A federal lawsuit filed last week claims the field is too short and unsafe. But the Navy was here first. The field has been in operation for more than 60 years. We asked Coupeville resident Micheal Monson what he expected living next to a Navy facility. "I expected the Prowlers," said Monson.

The Navy transitioned from Prowler to Growler jets in 2005. Opponents say an independent study shows the new jets are loud enough to cause hearing loss. The lawsuit also claims the Navy has increased flights by nearly 300 percent. Attwood bought a protective headset. "I actually wear these in my house which means I can't talk on the telephone, I can't listen to the TV," said Attwood.

The Navy is suspending operations at the field for the rest of the year and will train on base in Oak Harbor. Officials won't comment on the case but gave us a statement saying, "This decision will create operational impacts, and is not considered to be sustainable for the long term. Conducting all FCLPs (practices) at Ault Field will interfere with other necessary operations, entailing delays and operational conflicts," said Mike Welding, public affairs officer, NAS Whidbey Island.

The Navy has 60 days to respond to the lawsuit.