Easley reactivates OLF study group

Published 12:25 am Friday, September 14, 2007

By Staff
Could help Navy assess alternative locations
By NIKIE MAYO, News Editor
Gov. Mike Easley is dusting off a study group from 2004 to consider alternative sites to the outlying landing field the Navy proposes for Washington and Beaufort counties.
The group will review “all aspects of the OLF situation as it stands today,” according to a Thursday release from the governor’s office. It will also assist the Navy in gathering input from regulatory agencies, residents, local governments and advocacy groups on potential OLF sites in North Carolina.
The group first met in the spring of 2004. By late fall that year, it had published a report decrying the negative effects of Navy-preferred “Site C,” because of its nearness to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Washington County. The group will reconvene because of a recent meeting between Easley and Navy brass.
The group’s first meeting is Tuesday in Raleigh. The meeting time had not been announced as of Thursday night.
Beaufort County Manager Paul Spruill and Washington County Manager David Peoples are both members of the study group. They were notified just days ago that the group will come out of its three-year hiatus.
Peoples was not a part of the initial study group, but will be assuming the seat held by former Washington County Manager Chris Coudriet.
Once all that is done, the group will issue a report to the governor and to members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation.
Peoples said he has “no clue” how many sites the group could be asked to study.
Keeping the landing field away from Site C was the basis of a lawsuit in 2003. Several environmental groups and the two Site C counties successfully sued the Navy, leading to a court-ordered supplemental review of the Navy’s favored spot. That environmental analysis was released in February 2007.
Since then, both state and federal politicians have spoken against Site C, which is halfway between Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock. They contend that putting a jet landing field near the winter stomping ground of thousands of migratory waterfowl endangers both military pilots and wildlife.