Navy says Site C not absolute

Published 11:25 am Tuesday, February 27, 2007

By Staff
Defense budget ‘unfortunate at best’
By NIKIE MAYO, News Editor
CHERRY POINT MARINE CORPS AIR STATION— The budget line item that names Site C as the next outlying landing field is “unfortunate at best” Rear Admiral David Anderson said Monday.
The line item “NOLF Washington County” appears in the U.S. Department of Defense’s budgetary request that went to Congress earlier this month. The Defense Department requested just over $10 million to go toward a proposed OLF to be situated on the border of Washington and Beaufort counties.
And the Navy believes military-termed Site C is “the best option,” he said. Leaders said that decision does take into account the migratory waterfowl population and endangered red wolves and the nearby Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
The tundra swans, snow geese and other waterfowl can be managed by putting in “habitat controls,” said Dan Cecchini, the Navy’s lead biologist for the OLF project. He said the Navy had studied military operations in similar areas and believes removing some crops that attract the birds would lessen the potential for problems.
Cecchini characterized the red wolves, which were introduced in this area in 1986, as a “nonessential, experimental population.” Once the red wolves are off a federal refuge, they are not afforded the same level of protection, he said. Cecchini said the Navy is consulting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for recommendations on how to handle the red wolves and that he anticipates “a favorable outcome.” He called the notion that Navy representatives have trapped some red wolves “absolutely false.”
Anderson said the OLF is necessary primarily for training purposes.
“This is much more than a noise-mitigation issue,” he said.
He disputed the notion that the proposed OLF is slated for northeastern North Carolina because people in Virginia have more pull.
Site C would provide pilots from Cherry Point and Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia a dark environment for practicing without a lot of constraints. He said a new field without encroachment would allow pilots to be better prepared in combat, something that doesn’t happen “every time you throw in an artificiality.”
The Navy owns 2,700 acres in Washington County and needs 300 more to complete its “core area” which includes the OLF landing strip, Anderson said. The draft follow-up impact study released Friday indicates the Navy’s core area is only 2,000 acres in size.
Anderson said the Navy is “obviously very disappointed” about the anti-Site C sentiment that has been expressed by residents and leaders, including Gov. Mike Easley.
Residents respond to Navy’s plans
Say Navy ‘ripping the heart out of a region’
By DAN PARSONS, Staff Writer
CHERRY POINT MARINE CORPS AIR STATION — Backing away from emotional issues is the best way to proceed in the debate over the Navy’s proposed outlying landing field, Rear Admiral David Anderson said in a press conference Monday.
“I realize that this is very much an emotional issue,” Anderson said at the press conference. “ The only way to come to a wise decision is to continue the dialogue.”
But members of North Carolinians Opposed to the Outlying Landing Field disagree with that approach. For them, the possibility of having a jet-fighter landing field in their backyards is inherently emotional.
Alligood and others gathered in the parking lot in front of the main entrance to the base to await media after the Navy’s press conference. Both gatherings were held to discuss the draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement released Friday in which the Navy again named Site C in Washington and Beaufort counties as its preferred OLF location.
In response to the release of the SEIS, Gov. Mike Easley sent a letter to the state’s U.S. Congressional Delegation Friday, asking for a halt in funding for the OLF project. NO-OLF representatives at Cherry Point said they had turned out in “full recognition and support” of Easley’s plea.
Both Taylor and Alligood said that they were encouraged by the governor’s response.
Literature distributed outside the base says NO-OLF “has always been for the state of North Carolina and the Navy to partner in identifying a reasonable solution for an OLF that will benefit both our state and our military.”
OLF opponent Frances Armstrong thinks that the Navy’s proposal is detrimental not only to the state and its people, but to its wildlife. Site C is in close proximity to the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, wintering grounds for tens of thousands of snow geese and tundra swans.