Navy OLF hearings begin tonight

Published 3:37 pm Monday, March 19, 2007

By Staff
First of series starts in Swan Quarter,By NIKIE MAYO, News Editor
The Navy kicks off its series of public hearings on the latest outlying landing field study with a meeting tonight in Hyde County.
The meeting will be held at Mattamuskeet Elementary School on Juniper Bay Road in Swan Quarter. It begins with an information session scheduled to run from 4:30-6:30 p.m., at which Navy officials will be available “to provide clarification as necessary” related to the draft follow-up environmental study. The public hearing on the study is scheduled from 7-10 p.m.
The court-ordered study again names Site C — about 34,000 acres on the border of Washington and Beaufort counties — as the Navy’s preferred place to set up shop. The land is about halfway between Virginia Beach, Va., and Havelock, a factor that led to its selection as a spot to train military pilots from Naval Air Station Oceana and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
But the Navy considered four alternative sites — including one in Engelhard not far from the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge in Hyde County. Hearings are set for each county that has a potential site.
An up-close encounter with thousands of Hyde County tundra swans in December 2005 forced a Navy pilot to abandon his test flights there. Navy officials said then that they knew such an encounter was a possibility because it was the peak of the migratory waterfowl season and the pilot flew during the morning hours — peak feeding time. Though similar flights were planned for January and February 2006, the Navy scrapped those plans in Hyde.
About one-third of Hyde County’s land is already federally owned, and putting an OLF there would put another 3 percent of its acreage in the government’s grasp.
Rear Admiral David Anderson said he wanted “to reiterate that a decision has not been made” about the site of the proposed OLF when he spoke at a Navy-called press conference at Cherry Point last month.
But Anderson was not able to name the military’s second choice for a landing field he says is necessary to train its pilots.