Congress pulls purse strings on OLF at Site C

Published 5:40 am Thursday, October 11, 2007

By Staff
NO-OLF still ‘vigilant’
Staff Writer
Congress has said “no” to funding an outlying landing field in Washington and Beaufort counties.
A bill omitting a $10.6 million request from the Navy to construct an OLF at its preferred Site C passed the Senate Oct. 2 and is awaiting President Bush’s signature to become law.
Department of Defense Administrative Provisions Bill #1547, Section 130, reads “none of the funds in this title shall be used for any activity related to the construction of an outlying landing field in Washington County, North Carolina.”
Washington County Manager David Peoples was equally hesitant to call for victory in keeping the field from Site C.
Peoples sits on Gov. Mike Easley’s OLF Study Group, which is working with the Navy to find a suitable alternative to Site C at one of six sites proposed last month. After preliminary study of the new sites, Rear Adm. David Anderson plans to pitch between three and five sites to Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter by Nov. 15. Upon Winter’s approval, those new sites would go through a “full blown” evaluation for possible environmental impacts, Anderson said at an Oct. 4 meeting of the study group.
NO-OLF will continue to involve itself in the decision of where to put an OLF, as those new sites meet opposition in Gates and Camden counties.
In the supplemental EIS, the Navy again identified Site C as it preferred site for an OLF because of its equidistance from both Ocean Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Va. and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock. F/A-18 Super Hornet jets stationed at both bases would train for nighttime carrier landings at the OLF.
Site C came under heavy fire from state and federal environmental groups because of its proximity to the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge — winter home to hundreds of thousands of migratory waterfowl that environmentalists say are vulnerable to and pose risks for Navy jets.
The Navy’s preference for Site C also met scrutiny from local, state and federal politicians because of its possible economic impact in the region and at the behest of Washington and Beaufort county residents.