OLF Fight Cannot Let Up

Published 4:51 am Saturday, March 15, 2003

By Staff
The Beaufort County residents who traveled to Washington, D.C., in late February to press the case against a Navy outlying landing field at the county's border acquitted themselves well in meetings with members of North Carolina's congressional delegation. We realize, though, that for all the positive response they received in the nation's capital, we still have a long way to go in our battle to preserve our economy and our way of life.
It is evident that many people in Beaufort County still do not realize the gravity of the situation we are facing. The members of Citizens Opposing Outlying Landing Fields have led the charge in trying to educate residents about the devastation we very easily could realize from having an OLF nearby. However, judging from comments in the community and letters in the Daily News, the plan for the OLF itself remains a mystery to some.
The OLF would not be an airfield for the jets; they probably will be coming in from more than one military base. Until the Navy releases its final environmental impact statement in the summer, we will not know for sure whether the Super Hornets will be based at Oceana Naval Air Station in southeastern Virginia, Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station in Havelock or the Marine Corps air station in Beaufort, S.C., or a combination thereof.
What we do know is that these jets are reported to be extremely noisy, and the OLF can expect to handle more than 50,000 operations each year, a large percentage of them at night. The jets will fly into a pattern around the 8,000-foot runway, then land and take off again – though we do not know how many touch-and-go's each plane will complete before peeling off toward home.
To lessen potential problems with birds – and to prohibit unwanted development that could impede the training of the pilots – the Navy is expected to seek easements on up to 50,000 acres surrounding the OLF. In other words, for all intents and purposes, that property will lose any significant value it might be lending to our county's tax base.
Already, we have heard plenty of anecdotal evidence that people are becoming less reluctant to purchase homesites on the south side of the river, and some people who have purchased lots are waiting to build on them, reluctant to be neighbors to the noise and environmental pollution we expect will come with the jets.
Anyone who does not realize how much Cypress Landing and other new communities have contributed to our economy over the past several years – at the same time we were losing manufacturing companies – has not given much thought to our current state of affairs. If the county had not reaped the wealth of people choosing the Pamlico area for the retirement years of their lives, the state Commerce Department probably would have had to create a Tier 0 to recognize adequately our dire economic situation.
If the OLF comes to Beaufort County's borders, we fear we will see the exodus of some of our more recent county residents, and we fully expect to suffer the loss of many who might have elected to come here. Unfortunately, those of us who will remain, as taxpayers, will be picking up the additional costs for public services that will have to be funded. Our tax base may erode, but a certain level of services will have to remain.
We believe we must continue to let our elected officials in Washington, D.C., – and the Navy – know that an OLF will ring the death knell for the Beaufort County economy. More than a few of the families who call the Pamlico area home have been here since before the United States was born. Fighting for our way of life is nothing new to them. All of us who have hopes for a better future should be joining that cause.