By Bill Hottell
Once again last week the quiet and peacefulness of the Methow Valley was shattered by the shrieking noise of U.S. Navy fighter jets from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.
On June 12, the “Growler” aircraft were more disturbing than usual. At midday I looked straight up to see two of the fighter jets flying in a circle directly above Twisp. The pilots seem to be partying and having a good time at the expense of the remote little town out in the country.
A neighbor woman was so disturbed that she had to hold both hands over her ears and hold her head down. A friend of mine who is a retired Navy pilot told me, “One of the jets flew so low, it was about 200 feet above the ground. It was so low I could see the pilot.”
It was an outrageous violation of regulations.
In Twisp a lady told me, “I moved here to the valley because it was a quiet place. I have lived in a war zone in Israel near the border where the sound of screaming fighter jets was horrifying. And now the Methow feels like a war zone.”
A major part of the economy here in the Methow comes from tourists who like to hike the mountain trails, camp in the countryside and just hang out in one of nature’s quiet places. The Methow offers many places to camp including U.S. Forest Service campgrounds located along our pristine rivers.
Visitors come here to escape the nerve-rattling noises of the cities. Many residents have chosen to live here, and stay their entire lives here, because of the peaceful silence and sounds of nature, birdsong and the music of the rivers and streams. Local groups offer bird walks, wildflower walks and butterfly walks.
The new generation of jets, the Growlers, are even louder than earlier versions, because they “specialize in jamming enemy radar and communications, are named for their very loud, low-frequency roar.”
Years ago, the Whidbey Island fighter jets were frequent flyers over the Methow and disturbing the silence. In protest, many locals contacted Representative Tom Foley (Okanogan County was then part of the 5th legislative district). Foley picked up his phone, made one call, and the aircraft promptly left Methow airspace. For years to come.
But now the roar of the jets has returned with a vengeance.
What can we do about it?
You can contact our two U.S. Senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and, I suppose, Congressman Dan Newhouse.
One of our most precious possessions here in the Methow is its life-giving quiet. Let’s take it back.
Bill Hottell lives in Twisp.