Navy attempting to alter economic, social impact of OLF

Published 4:52 am Saturday, October 6, 2007

By Staff
Cost to counties, possible flight paths change with new sites
Staff Writer
When the Navy finds a suitable site for its outlying landing field in North Carolina or Virginia, it still plans on a footprint of about 30,000 acres, Navy spokesman Ted Brown said Friday. But the Navy’s land-acquisition strategy has again changed as it considers six new North Carolina sites, the Navy’s top officer on the project said Thursday.
The amount of land needed for the practice landing field has met strong resistance from local leaders who say eastern counties will not be able to take the hit in lost property tax revenues if the Navy purchases the land. Rear Admiral David Anderson said new strategies may require little or no impact on county tax rolls, speaking after a meeting of Gov. Mike Easley’s OLF Study Group in Raleigh on Thursday.
Anderson said the new land-acquisition strategies were being developed using existing Department of Defense facilities as templates for the new strategy, but would not elaborate.
At the Navy’s preferred Site C in Washington and Beaufort counties, it planned to purchase outright the majority of the 30,000 acres as specified in the Environmental Impact Statement for the site. Only about 2,000 acres is needed for the landing strip, the rest would be used as a buffer.
In the court-ordered supplemental EIS, the Navy changed its land-acquisition strategy to purchase a portion of the needed land while gaining control of the remainder through restricted-use easements, according to Brown.
With six new North Carolina OLF sites on the table, Anderson said more has changed than land-acquisition strategy. Through preliminary analysis of the new sites, especially the four northeastern ones, Anderson said the Navy has more leeway with how its jets would approach a field in those locations.
Two of the newly proposed sites, Sandbanks and Old Railroad Grade site are in Gates County. Two are in Camden County in the northeast portion of the state. Those four are closer than Site C to Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Va., where most of the F-18 Super Hornets that would use the OLF will be stationed.
Beaufort County Manager and study group member Paul Spruill called Anderson’s statement “another knock out of the park statement,” as compared to his previous experience on the study group in 2004.
At the rim of the 30,000-acre oval that would surround an OLF, jet noise would reach about 60 decibels, depending on site characteristics, Brown said. The Navy wants to control the majority of the area inside that oval to prevent encroachment that would spoil its attempts to imitate night carrier landings at sea. The noise contour within that oval would depend on approach patterns and the terrain of the land, but Anderson said the Navy is now willing to relocate residents who live within even the 65-decibel range who choose to be relocated.
Beaufort County Manager Paul Spruill said that also was a change from the Navy’s stance on land-acquisition at Site C.