FORKS — When U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer arrived at the town hall meeting he had called at the Rainforest Arts Center in Forks, he was greeted by protesters who opposed Growler jets from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
One of the protesters, Larry Morrell of the Sound Defense Alliance, told the Gig Harbor Democrat on Wednesday that the noise caused by Growler jets is threatening the outdoor recreation economies in Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Kilmer represents the 6th Congressional District which includes the North Olympic Peninsula.
Morrell pressed Kilmer to support a Senate measure that would require sound monitoring in Olympic National Park and at the air station. Kilmer said he does support it.
“The Navy tells us one story, but we hear something else,” Morrell said. “This would allow us to get data so we can … go to the Navy and say this is what is happening here.”
While protesters were outside some driving past honked in support while others told them jets produce the “sound of freedom.”
Kilmer said he supports monitoring for Growler noise in Olympic National Park, but also said the men and women who serve in the military have a challenging mission and need training.
“At the same time it is undebatable that Growlers are really loud planes and there are legitimate concerns from our region about the impact, particularly — as you point out — when we have a significant outdoor recreation economy and a National Park that gets 3.3 million visitors per year,” Kilmer said, adding that land-use and air space decisions need to be grounded in science.
“Doing actual monitoring and having actual data is consistent with that.”
Kilmer, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, has backed provisions to fund technologies to reduce jet noise.
Kilmer told the crowd that he was recently at a meeting in Forks with the Olympic Forest Collaborative and that — despite the Navy telling Kilmer’s office that all Growler flights are higher than 10,000 feet — the noise from a jet shook the building they were in.
Kilmer said he called the Navy and questioned whether that flight was actually higher than 10,000 feet.
“They looked into it and we were correct: it was not [higher than 10,000 feet],” Kilmer said. “Having decisions based on science is important.”
Spokesperson Michael Welding for Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, reading from an approved statement, said Thursday NAS Whidbey Island does not have any records of recent calls from Kilmer, though it has had calls from seven Forks-area residents this year.
The Navy has reached out to Kilmer’s office for more information.
Welding said that the floor of the Military Operations Area is 6,000 feet and that only 5 percent of activity happens below 10,000 feet.
Kilmer said he has had conversations “at the very highest levels of the United States Navy” to reflect the concerns he has heard.
The Democrat faced one question about his support for launching an impeachment inquiry for President Donald Trump. A man asked Kilmer what specific charge the president should face.
Kilmer told the man that he has been cautious about calling for impeachment, but that he supports an impeachment inquiry. It’s a decision Kilmer made after reading Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report twice, listening to his testimony and gaining insight from former federal prosecutors who have raised concerns about obstruction of justice.
Kilmer cited 10 specific examples of what could be considered obstruction of justice that were listed in Mueller’s report, which he said are “deeply concerning.”
“I will tell you upfront this is not something I gleefully dove into, in part because I recognize that even the conversation of an impeachment inquiry is a divisive conversation and we’re a country that is already too divided,” Kilmer said, “not to mention the chances for people to play political games with this stuff is concerning for all of us — on any side of the equation.”
He said that there is enough information that Congress should “continue to pull on those threads” and pursue an impeachment inquiry.
“What is the message we send to future elected officials, future presidents … if in the face of the evidence that’s laid out in the Mueller Report the reaction from Congress is ‘nothing to see here folks’?” Kilmer asked the crowd.
“If you think that’s the right answer, then I would argue the debate should be about whether we should have impeachment as an avenue in our Constitution at all.”
Kilmer said five committees have investigative jurisdiction over an impeachment inquiry.
“My commitment to you is: my intention is if Congress does move in the direction of an impeachment inquiry I intend to keep walking and chewing gum,” Kilmer said, “that I’m going to keep going to work every day to improve the lives of everybody I represent.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].