Speakers take Navy to task during OLF public hearing

Published 4:02 pm Wednesday, March 21, 2007

By Staff
Area residents support military training, ‘but not the price’
News Editor
SWAN QUARTER— Area residents — many with strong military ties — took the Navy to task for considering the region as a potential outlying landing field site during the first of a series of public hearings on the matter Monday night.
One speaker said he considered the Navy’s proposal an insult, because the Navy has been studying the sites for years, but has not changed its OLF conclusions.
The hearing in Hyde County was one of six to be held in eastern North Carolina for the Navy to gather public input about its court-ordered, follow-up environmental study on OLF impacts.
The study, released in February, examines five possible sites, including one in eastern Hyde County. The study again names Site C — on the border of Washington and Beaufort counties — as the Navy’s preferred place to train pilots from Naval Air Station Oceana and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
Kelly Davis, a former biologist at Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, said the Navy’s plans do not adequately address the “probability of risk” and the “severity of outcome” in regard to potential bird-jet collisions. Both sites C and D are within a handful of miles of federal refuges.
Both Mattamuskeet in Hyde County and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Washington County are the winter stomping grounds for thousands of migratory waterfowl, including snow geese and tundra swans.
The leader of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service echoed comments he had made earlier in the day, saying his agency “respectfully disagrees” with the Navy’s preferred site.
Many speakers said the Navy’s choice amounted to sacrificing the best interests of rural North Carolina for interests of metropolitan Virginia.
Hyde County resident Mark Gibbons, a veteran of the Coast Guard, said the Navy’s choice amounted to a “land swap.”