British Columbia

More U.S. Navy jets could worsen rumble in Victoria area

Some people in Victoria are worried about a plan to add more EA-18 Growler jets at a naval station on Whidbey Island in Washington State.

'You can feel this in your bones,' says Oak Bay resident of jet noise

The U.S. Navy has a plan to station more EA-18G Growler aircraft at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. (Avgeekjoe Productions)

Some people in Victoria, B.C., are worried about a plan to add more EA-18G Growler jets at a naval station on Whidbey Island in Washington State.

There have long been complaints that Growler flights at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island — about 50 kilometres across the water from Victoria — cause a rumble on southern Vancouver Island.

"It's not so much the noise as the actual vibration. You can feel this in your bones," said Oak Bay resident Edward Lien, one many Canadians who have complained to the U.S. Navy about the noise in the past.

The U.S. Navy plans to add up to 36 more Growler jets to its existing fleet of 82 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

EA-18 Growlers are capable of jamming communication and launch signals. In documentation for the plan, the U.S. Navy says adding more of the jets will "support an expanded U.S. Department of Defense mission for identifying, tracking and targeting in a complex electronic warfare environment."

Public consultations for the expansion are being held in Washington State communities but not on Vancouver Island.

"The least they could do would be to better explain what they are going to do and what they have done by way of sound mitigation and what they can do," said Laurie McBride, who also hears the rumble at his house in Victoria.

Noise reduction technology

The U.S. Navy is working on new technology that could help reduce the noise from Growler flights, said Ted Brown, a public affairs officer for U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

Modifications could include adding technology known as chevrons to reduce engine noise from the jets.

The U.S. Navy is also considering technology that could reduce the number of training flights by adding more automation to aircraft carrier approaches and landings, Brown said.

"We try to be a good neighbour where we fly. We try to work with the community to develop procedures when we can, without impacting the mission, to minimize community noise impacts," he said.

"Everywhere we fly, there are obviously some people who are not particularly happy about the noise."

It's not entirely clear whether the rumble heard on southern Vancouver Island comes from the Growlers jets based on Whidbey Island or from other military operations over the Olympic Peninsula, Brown added.

While there will not be any public consultation meetings held on Vancouver Island, Brown said Canadians are welcome to give feedback through the online feedback form that is also part of the consultation process.

San Juan Islands concerned

The plan to increase Growler operations is also raising concern south of the border in the San Juan Islands, which are located between Victoria and Whidbey Island.

People move to the San Juan Islands for the peace and quiet and don't expect to deal with noise from air traffic, said Rick Hughes, a councillor in San Juan County.

"We support the U.S. Navy's presence in the area. We just want them to be better neighbours," he said.

Hughes said people in San Juan County are pushing the U.S. Navy to implement the noise reduction technology on the aircraft, or potentially reduce the the number of flights through virtual training technology.

The public comment period on the Growler expansion plan ends on Jan. 25, 2017.

With files from Sterling Eyford