Long-awaited epiphany

Published 2:02 am Friday, September 21, 2007

By Staff
Kudos to Rear Adm. David Anderson for considering what’s truly at stake in going after the Navy’s favored landing field site in Washington and Beaufort counties — and for having the courage to try to right a wrong.
The father of two boys has a lot to shoulder in the coming months and years as the Navy looks for alternatives to “Site C,” the proposed practice pad for military pilots that’s only four miles from the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. But for the first time in years, there seems to be a person in the Navy who understands there are two sides to this equation.
Anderson’s words provide the first real signal that perhaps the Navy isn’t dead set on 34,000 acres here, many of which are prime farmland. It’s a signal residents here have sought for nearly five years.
They began by writing letters and making telephone calls. Soon, seeing those weren’t enough, ordinary people decided they’d do whatever necessary to make leaders listen.
They set up “Tent City” in a Washington County field. They’ve rallied in Raleigh and Washington, D.C. They organized a parade of tractors and farm equipment that wound its way through the streets of Plymouth just before a public hearing about the Navy’s wished-for site.
Wanda Stotesbury, whose Site C land is at stake, went a step farther. She wanted to help the Navy “better understand the equity,” as Anderson put it. So she hauled a mock F/A-18 Super Hornet all the way from Wenona to a public hearing in Charlotte, trailing behind a busload of her fellow Site C residents. Stotesbury’s husband Kenny built the homemade jet four years ago.
Indeed, Gov. Mike Easley has stepped up to try to stop ill-fated Site C plans that would have jet pilots regularly sharing airspace with 30-pound birds. But Easley and his environmental secretary Bill Ross can’t do this alone. They had to find an ally in the Navy. Anderson may well be that ally.
Anderson is not discounting the needs of the Navy, having worn its uniform for three decades.
But Anderson seems to comprehend the Navy is not the only party with something at stake when it comes to placing this OLF. He said of Ross: “I know if we fail, I’ve still got to be looking this guy in the eyes for the next three to five years. That was kind of an epiphany for us.”
We expect that this OLF journey is far from over. We expect some of the same rabid opposition to an OLF that is here will also be encountered at the six new alternative sites in the state’s northeast and southeast corners. And we won’t breathe easily until Site C is nothing but a distant memory for the Navy.
But we’re grateful for the Navy’s “epiphany” and we hope it’s a sign of better days ahead.