Price to Navy secretary: Reject Site C

Published 5:30 pm Friday, March 30, 2007

By Staff
U.S. Rep. hopes to ‘avoid a confrontation’ with Navy
News Editor
Just days before the Navy’s area public hearings on Site C, Navy Secretary Donald Winter has yet another piece of congressional correspondence in his mailbox.
U.S. Rep. David Price, a Chapel Hill Democrat, said he hopes to “avoid a confrontation,” but that Winter should reject that site as an outlying landing field for military pilots.
“I can say without hesitation that the citizens and elected officials of North Carolina welcome the Navy’s decision to build an OLF in our state. I can say with equal certainty, however, that Site C is not a viable option for an OLF because of the threats it would pose to Navy and Marine pilots and aircraft, to local communities, and to the surrounding environment,” Price wrote.
The Navy proposes to build an OLF on the border of Washington and Beaufort counties, on about 30,000 acres halfway between Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock. Opponents of the plan say the wished-for site is too close to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and that putting a runway there could disrupt the winter plans of thousands of migratory waterfowl.
“The Navy has repeatedly characterized its decision to construct an OLF as a necessity for ‘force protection,’” Price wrote. “ Site C would seem to be incompatible with that goal given the significant Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard risk, which indicates that there is a very real possibility that Navy and Marine pilots operating at Site C will lose their lives due to bird strikes.”
Hinting that he’s prepared to “hold the purse strings,” as Gov. Mike Easley requested of North Carolina’s congressional delegation, Price asked the Navy secretary to find an OLF “that all stakeholders can support and that will not compromise the Navy’s mission.”
On other OLF fronts, several sporting and conservation groups planned to hold a press conference in Washington D.C., on Thursday to detail the OLF site’s potential risk to pilots and wildlife, according to a news release.
North Carolinians Opposed to the Outlying Landing Field also scheduled a meeting Thursday night to gather a last time before the public hearings to be held in Beaufort and Washington counties next week.