Federal judge throws out COER jet noise lawsuit on Whidbey Island


A federal judge has denied the Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve’s request to compel the Navy to temporarily stop touch-and-go operations at Outlying Field Coupeville.

In a lawsuit filed by COER in 2013, the group demanded that the courts force the Navy to stop the training for the EA-18G Growler until an ongoing Environmental Impact Statement could be completed. The EIS is scheduled for completion in 2017.

For the last few years, COER has advocated against the Navy’s flight of the Growler over residential areas, arguing that the electronic attack aircraft is too loud and causes mental and physical health issues.

Judge Thomas Zilly said in the 29-page ruling however, that “the court concludes that plaintiff has not established a likelihood of success on the merits, has not sufficiently demonstrated that its members will suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction, and has not shown that the balance of equities or the public interest weigh in its favor.”

Zilly bolstered his Aug. 11 ruling with case law that states that the type of injunction requested by COER is an “extraordinary and drastic remedy” and that the burden of proof falls on them to prove its necessity.

The judge noted that the 13 declarations filed by those claiming degradation of health caused by the jet noise did, “on their face, present serious questions about the current noise levels at OLF Coupeville.”

However, these declarations did not provide reliable evidence to support the claims, Zilly said. Citing case law, Zilly argued that it is difficult to detect a difference between those who dislike or fear government action, and those who suffer from real anxiety or stress.

For this reason, Zilly said “several of the declarations directly undermine this necessary causal connection.”

“The Supreme Court has warned that courts should exercise caution when considering complaints of anxiety and stress related to government action in the context of NEPA challenges,” Zilly said.


For these reasons and others Zilly concluded that “the plaintiff has not met the burden of showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits… or that the balance of equities or public interest weigh in its favor.”

“The Navy is pleased with today’s decision,” according to Mike Welding, public affairs officer at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. “We will continue work on the Environmental Impact Statement that will analyze the possibility of bringing additional aircraft to NAS Whidbey Island. The draft version of that document is scheduled to be released to the public sometime next spring.”

A request for comment from COER was not immediately answered.




  1. Pingback: Island Politics · Federal judge throws out COER jet noise lawsuit on Whidbey Island

  2. krica flaming on

    Give me a break. Do you know how many years the Navy has been doing these touch and goes. Being a daughter of a Navy man and living spending my child hood next to the end of the run way on Frosted RD. I use to sit on the fence and watch with amazement of these planes. Watch the squadrons come and go. I always knew when something was up with the increase of there stop and goes in the middle of the night. I remember talk of how the air rights had been sold to the navy allowing them to fly low and practice. Whether that was ever true, I do not know.
    It was a proud day when the Blue Angels would come and practice before the air show. We would sit on a fence with our own private show. I know I turned out just fine and those stop and goes I would have not trade for anything. It was always a reminder of what the Navy and how it provided for my family. We would never had thought of complaining.

  3. Doug US Navy Retired on

    Sorry folks. Do not move near an airport, airstrip, train station, etc that existed first then complain about the noise!

    That jet noise is the SOUND OF FREEDOM!

  4. Chelle Brunke on

    Great job reporting. I liked the quotes from the judge, it summarizes what many of us have known all along.

  5. The Good Guys Won.

    “CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff has not met the burden of showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits, that it will suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction, or that the balance of equities or public interest weigh in its favor. Nor has plaintiff raised serious questions going to the merits such that an injunction would be warranted under the Ninth Circuit’s sliding scale approach. Accordingly, plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction, docket no. 21, is DENIED.”

    Can you say “Slam Dunk”?

  6. Thomas F. Strang AFCN USN Ret. on

    Sorry folks this is not the time to rejoice! This controversy unfortunately was an unnecessary waste of emotion at the expense of those choose to wear the military uniform of this nation of freedoms and their families as well as with fracturing community we reside in.

    This is not the time to gloat or cry for we as community have truely lost some thing special which we will not get back. Trust of our neighbors! Yes they had every right to petition the government along with the freedom to speak freely but this controversy illustrates so well freedom comes at a cost. A high cost which we should not have had to pay my friends.

    To those who presently wear this nation’s uniform and those who will choose to wear it in the future the reality is not all citizens of this nation are grateful for your service. But you will serve in their behalf with no less effort than you will for those that are grateful.

  7. COER will continue to fight! Our battle is long from over! Victims of the Navy Growler will continue to have their voices heard. Our complaints cannot be ignored and the Navy and now Judge Zilly find themselves culpable in the direct harm caused to citizens in and around our beautiful lands!

    We want rest until this Navy cancer is cut out of own region!

    • AND WE will continue to fight until the Cancer of Ebey’s Reserve (COER) is cut out from the region!

      “Declarants Gerald Roberts, Isobel Kameros, Maryon Attwood, Brenda Wilbur, and Robert Wilbur, each moved to the area after this zoning occurred. “Not surprisingly, a party may not satisfy the irreparable harm requirement if the harm is self-inflicted.”

    • I’m just going to say this COER… because we need sound, not noise. Problem solving, not ponitification. Strategery, not screaming. Okay, I got your attention.

      Go ahead and appeal COER. Why?

      If you COER lose in appeal – highly likely; you just made it harder to impossible for Peaceful Skies, Protect Olympic Peninsula, the Alaska group, et al to litigate their causes if/when they do. Appellate rulings become LAW as much as a law passed through a legislature. One district court cannot tell another district court how to rule or legislators how to legislate, not so much a Court of Appeals or the US Supreme Court.

      There is also an unverified rumor going around the hero of the day US Attorney Rachel K. Roberts may decide to seek to recover costs from COER if this progressive agitation continues. She doesn’t like the public at all and got her education at a snooty East Coast law school. You’ve been forewarned folks…

      Choose wisely. Think strategically, not emotionally. Thanks Rachel for all you do, Special K!

  8. At Last a Federal Judge that makes the rights decisions. Of course now poor little coer will yell and scream and throw tantrums, because you know, they are so stressed out. I suggest they move to China were there ‘Freedom’ can be assured and they can live in peace. Sad Sad People who have no idea how to live life, it Starts with Getting a Life and living it with the circumstances YOU CREATED, i.e. you should have never bought a house on an ISLAND with Military Air Fields!

  9. To the members of COER – stop. Sell your homes. Move away.

    OLF was there long before you were. Every one of you came in fully aware you were buying a house in a “high noise” area. I know because I lived several years on Deneboom Road, right under the down wind leg of the touch-and-go’s for OLF.

    There are people who will buy your houses, quickly, I’d imagine seeing as housing is a limited resources there on Whidbey. All you are doing is whining at this point. It seems foolish that you would move in, knowing the jets fly over, and then act like it’s surprising and horrific and get all Chicken-Little about it.

    Stop. Sell your house. Move. Or just accept that you bought a house in a high noise area, and learn to live with it. You are – at this point – acting like spoiled children.

  10. Dean R. Martinez on

    The NAS was there long before these were. No on told them to build their homes their. Either move or suck it up. How can these idiots complain about the noise of freedom flying over their heads. My dad was AF so was I and we lived in base housing and I heard many a B-52, KC-135’s, C-141, P-3’s the list goes on and I had no issues. These people need to shut it and enjoy the freedoms they have and the money the NAS puts on the community. Go Navy….glad to see you kicked ass and took names.
    Dean R. Martinez, USAF-Ret.

  11. Richard Greene on

    This same argument was happening when I was Stationed there from -85-89. When the NAVY said that they would leave, everyone saw how much money the community would lose. They loved us then. GO NAVY!

  12. The NOLF has been a cash cow for many of those in the Coupeville area. In the mid 60’s the Navy started using the NOLF with the A-6 making many in the Coupeville area irate. Just after that, coincidentally :), most of the local Coupeville farmers decided to raise turkeys, that didn’t work out to well because the turkeys stampeded and many died from the jet noise. The US Navy bought all the turkey farmers in the area out in the early 70’s with a lot of them making out pretty well. Some of the same families are now behind the most recent attemp to close the NOLF.
    I do believe their campaign is not so much about closing the NOLF but getting compensation for the noise. Either way, through the COER’s attempt to close the NOLF, or through gaining compensation for the noise many in the Coupeville area will benefit financially either through direct compensation as in the turkey buy out or through increased land value and reduced restrictions on land they own. Of course much if not all of this compensation would go to the property owners.
    This is the 4th attempt to stop/close the NOLF or gain compensation from it since the mid 60’s with only one of them being successful. Hopefully this one will fail as well.

      • Do yourself a favor and go to the library and read the old copies of the Whidbey News Times. (Hint, start at 1970) It is right there in print…don’t take MY word for it do the research yourself if you don’t believe it.

  13. NW Gunslinger on

    As it should be. If they didn’t want to live near an airstrip they shouldn’t have moved there. The Navy was there first.

  14. It’s understandable that different people have different points of view on this issue, but making threat-like comments to COER only serves to make your argument seem barbaric.

    • I think COER needs to understand when patriots say, “Eminent domain” it’s not to bully ’em. It’s to find an expeditious solution.

      Problem is, will the Island County Board of Health go on a limb for these people? Zero for two in litigation as of 21 August 2015.

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