Navy’s selection leaves residents ‘disappointed’

Published 10:57 am Sunday, February 25, 2007

By Staff
Leaders urge Congress to withhold funding
By NIKIE MAYO, News Editor
The Navy’s follow-up environmental impact study, which still favors Site C as an outlying landing field, has elicited one area reaction again and again — disappointment.
In its court-ordered supplemental study, the Navy again deemed land in Washington and Beaufort counties as its best option for an OLF to train military pilots in touch-and-go operations. That study was released Friday.
In the latest study, the Navy modifies its acquisition strategy for 34,000 acres, most of which lie in Washington County. Cmdr. Richard Catoire said Friday the Navy needs 14,000 acres that would be bought in “fee-simple acquisitions,” but that the Navy would seek restrictive-use easements on the rest of the land.
Alligood contends the easement element, while it keeps some land on the tax books, is not a balm.
“We don’t trust the Navy now any more than we did, and I haven’t talked to a single farmer who is happy about being one of the Navy’s slaves — being told what to plant and what to build,” she said.
Construction of an OLF at the Navy’s preferred Site C would impact at least 62 houses, according to the study. Twelve of those houses would absolutely be relocated, according to the report. Residents of 14 houses would be exposed to “high noise levels,” and another 36 households would be exposed to “moderate noise levels,” the study states. The Navy would consider acquiring those 50 houses in the noise-level zones if such action is “regarded to be in the best interest of the Navy and the property owner,” according to the study.
The proposed OLF would host about 31,000 aircraft operations annually, with most of those being takeoffs and landings. A normal training session would involve four or five aircraft, each doing about 10 touch-and-go operations in a 45-minute time frame, according to the study.
Site C’s central location between Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Va., and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point at Havelock would make it a practice pad for pilots from both military bases. But environmentalists and residents of the two counties affected contend Site C is too close to the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
That opinion became the basis of a lawsuit that ultimately forced the Navy to take another look at its Site C plans. But the second look didn’t change the Navy’s choice.
The North Carolina Democrat’s 1st Congressional District includes Washington County.
Gov. Mike Easley and Marc Basnight, president pro tempore of the state Senate, urged Congress to withhold federal funding from the OLF project, which is estimated to cost $231 million. Catoire said $193 million has been authorized, but less than $10 million has been appropriated to date.
In a letter to North Carolina’s congressional delegation, Basnight, a Dare County Democrat whose district includes both counties affected by Site C, said the Navy’s supplemental study “showed blatant disdain for the court mandate and is offensive to all those who had hoped the Navy’s review would be based on any objectivity whatsoever.”