Out with it

Published 11:56 pm Tuesday, September 11, 2007

By Staff
Somewhere between Raleigh and the Pentagon, there exists a list that the people of eastern North Carolina are waiting to see. We know it exists, and we know that it will be made public — eventually. That list details North Carolina’s alternative landing field sites, which state leaders proposed to Navy brass months ago. In the interest of the folks with the most at stake, we’re hoping that list’s “eventually” is just around the corner.
There’s a date that has been floated around as a potential unveiling moment, but it doesn’t seem set in stone. Sept. 15 has been talked about, wondered about, and guessed about. But the final call belongs to Gov. Mike Easley or Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter, according to Navy spokesman Ted Brown.
Brown said Navy officials have no exact date by which to confer with Winter, adding that “the middle of September” is as close to a specific time frame as they have come. Now, indeed, “the middle of September,” by any standard calendar, is Sept. 15. It’s also a Saturday.
We’d love to see the list, but choosing a Saturday release date for something so vital strikes us as either improbable or fishy. That said, we’d take it — if it signals the end of what is an awful waiting game here.
This is Site C country — home of the Navy’s preferred place to train military pilots. This is the place where 34,000 acres of mostly farmland were pegged as the perfect practice pad between Naval Air Station Oceana and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. And this is the place where residents, many of them with military honors, have fought for five years to keep an outlying landing field away from their homes and the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.
This list, this elusive list, will be confirmation that their fight has not been for naught. They need that — and they deserve it.
It’s understandable that state officials want to play their cards close to the vest. To call the placement of this OLF a sensitive issue for this region is to make an understatement. Certainly, we see why the state wanted to work behind closed doors with the Navy on this matter. It helps build trust. Sometimes, it makes sense.
Easley told the WDN that he didn’t intend to jeopardize the relationship between the two parties. And he hasn’t. Even as late as Friday, a spokesman for the governor said simply, “nothing to announce.”
We hope the incubation period for this well-kept secret is nearly over. For until then, this region can only hold its collective breath — and wait for “eventually.”