Wildlife agency, Navy disagree

Published 3:48 pm Tuesday, March 20, 2007

By Staff
National Wildlife director visits Site C, Pocosin refuge
Staff Writer
POCOSIN LAKES NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE — Before Monday’s public hearing on the Navy’s proposed outlying landing field, Dale Hall, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, flew into Plymouth to pay a visit to the Navy’s preferred OLF site and the nearby wildlife refuge under his care.
While on a tour of the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Dale said that nationwide his agency’s relationship with the Navy is “excellent.” But as a cooperating agency in the project, he has concerns about Site C — less than six miles from the refuge — as the Navy’s preferred site and with the conclusions of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement released by the Navy in February.
The U.S. FWS was a cooperating agency in the creation of the DSEIS, in which the Navy outlines its plan to mitigate any negative environmental impact on the refuge and the nearly 100,000 snow geese and tundra swan that winter there annually. In the report, Site C was once again chosen as the preferred location for the landing field, another of its findings which concerned Hall.
Sam Hamilton, U.S. FWS southeast regional director, said that site poses none of the environmental risks associated with Site C.
The Navy also asserts that planting non-edible crops on 20,000 acres surrounding the field will alter the behavior of the birds and cause them to leave. It also states that noise created by the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets which will use the field to practice carrier landings will harm the waterfowl on the refuge.
But Hall disagreed with those conclusions and said that Navy studies behind them don’t hold water.
The Navy’s noise simulations were conducted with only one jet and it says more jets will not increase the audibility in the refuge. Dale contends that the simulations were not extensive enough and that even one jet is sufficient to spook the birds.
After the refuge tour, Hall and his entourage headed to Swan Quarter to attend the first of six Navy-held public hearings on the OLF in Hyde, Bertie, Perquimans, Craven, Beaufort and Washington counties. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-NC, sent a letter Monday to the Secretary of the Navy asking him to hold seventh hearing in Charlotte.