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OLF’s fate awaits maneuvering in Congress

By Staff
Wording and funds still up for debate
By NIKIE MAYO
News Editor
The fate of a proposed outlying landing field in Washington and Beaufort counties could now rest with “purse strings” legislation and the U.S. Senate.
In Thursday’s edition, the Daily News reported the House Armed Services Committee was expected to approve wording late Wednesday night that would bar the Navy from its preferred site. That approval came early Thursday morning, moments after midnight. The House committee’s language is not expected to be challenged when the full House votes on the Defense Authorization Bill of 2007 next week.
But there’s still work to be done, said a spokesman for U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., whose 1st Congressional District includes Washington County.
Freezing the funds is a priority because the “repeal of authorization” for Navy OLF Site C does not affect money already obligated to the project and it does not bar the Navy from “acquisition of real property to facilitate (OLF) construction,” according to the House version of the bill.
Plugging the money pipeline is what Gov. Mike Easley requested in a February letter to North Carolina’s congressional delegation.
But even if the House blocks both consent and cash for a Site C OLF, the Senate’s version of the bill may be different.
If the Senate and House versions of the defense bill don’t match, the two will have to be reconciled before July 1. When the Senate will consider the defense bill remains unknown.
If the prohibitive language is included in the version of the bill that is signed by the president, it will keep the Navy away from the 34,000-acre proposed landing field site that’s near the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.