Dole faults Navy for OLF-options gaffe

Published 3:22 am Friday, September 28, 2007

By Staff
Senator won’t support a proposed site opposed by majority of residents
Contributing Editor
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole said she is dismayed the Navy apparently failed to consult with local officials before it announced six potential alternative sites for an outlying landing field in North Carolina.
In a letter to Navy Secretary Donald Winter, Dole said she will not support the Navy’s attempts to acquire any site where most local residents oppose an outlying landing field in their community.
Earlier this month, the Navy said it will consider the six alternatives to its preferred Site C in Washington and Beaufort counties. Two of those six sites are in Gates County. Two sites are in Camden County. The other two sites are in the southeast section of the state. They are Hoffman Forest, which is state-owned land on the border of Jones and Onslow counties, and Angola Bay gameland on the border of Duplin and Pender counties.
Dole’s letter indicates she or someone from her staff has been in contact with officials at or near the six alternative sites.
Dole’s letter also mentions the Navy may need to bring something else to the state if it wants an outlying landing field somewhere in the state.
On Monday, a meeting about the two alternative OLF sites in Gates County was held in that county. All five members of the Gates County Board of Commissioners oppose the sites in their county, said David Brown, the county manager, in an interview before the meeting.
At that meeting, Gates County officials and residents expressed their concerns about an OLF being located in their county.
North Carolinians Opposed to an Outlying Landing Field members are supporting Gates County officials and residents who oppose an OLF coming to their county. During a NO OLF meeting Tuesday, NO OLF members unanimously approved a motion aimed at helping residents of Gates and Camden counties. In 2004, Gates and Camden counties approved resolutions “on our behalf to protect our interests,” reads a statement released late Wednesday by NO OLF.
NO OLF also has doubts about the state possibly getting a master jet base to go with a new OLF.
The statement notes that at the meeting of the governor’s OLF study group earlier this month, Rear Adm. David Anderson stated “emphatically stated that North Carolina would not be the beneficiary of a master jet base.”
If the Navy gets its OLF in North Carolina, military pilots from Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia and, to a lesser extent, from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock, will use the new OLF to simulate night landings of F/A-18 Super Hornet jets. Leaders from both North Carolina and Virginia came to the Navy with lists of alternatives to the Washington-Beaufort counties site after ongoing criticism that is too close to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge’s Pungo unit.
The Navy’s preferred site has encountered political and environmental opposition because of its location within four miles of the refuge. That sanctuary is home to thousands of migratory waterfowl, including snow geese and tundra swan.
News Editor Nikie Mayo contributed to this report.