Cantwell Secures Amendment to Monitor Noise of Naval Operations in Island County

Amendment passed Senate as part of National Defense Authorization Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, as part of the Senate’s final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) successfully secured an amendment to provide for real-time monitoring of noise from all flights and training of EA-18G Growlers associated with Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. 

"Now the true facts about noise on Whidbey Island and in the region will be on the table. Once real time noise monitoring takes place, the public will have the information so better solutions can be put in place,” Senator Cantwell said. 

In March of this year, the U.S. Navy announced the addition of 36 Growler aircraft to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, increasing annual airfield activity by up to 33%. The Cantwell amendment passed today requires real-time monitoring of noise from local flights of all EA-18G Growlers associated with the air station. This includes field carrier landing practice at Naval Outlying Field Coupeville and Ault Field, which now see about 112,100 Growler operations annually. 

“Anecdotal stories and noise averaging statistics are not adequate. Real time data from reliable noise monitoring equipment is vital for local communities to be able to responsibly address impacts from increased military flight activity,” said Helen Price Johnson, Island County Commissioner from District 1. 

The legislation requires the Secretary of Defense to provide for real-time monitoring of noise from flights of EA-18G Growlers associated with Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The results of monitoring must be made publicly available on a Department of Defense website. It authorizes $1 million for noise monitoring. 

The legislation also requires the Secretary of Defense to work with the Director of the National Park Service and the Chief of the Forest Service to come up with a plan within six months for real-time noise monitoring of Growlers above or adjacent to nearby public lands, including Olympic National Park, Olympic National Forest, and Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. 

“The Hoh Rain Forest at Olympic National Park is consistently regarded as one of the quietest places in the continental United States, helping lead to its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, the Navy already has impeded the natural quiet by flying some of the loudest fighter jets in the world over the park, with intentions to increase the frequency of flights,” said Rob Smith, Northwest Regional Director of the National Parks Conservation Association. “In order to truly understand the issue at hand, we need noise monitoring options that demonstrate the harm these flights pose to visitors and wildlife. NPCA applauds Senator Maria Cantwell for acting to protect the natural quiet at Olympic National Park.” 

The Senate bill will now go to a conference committee to be reconciled with the House bill before final consideration of the FY20 NDAA later this year.