Opposition targets OLF
Public to Navy: Take ‘excursion’ somewhere else
By DAN PARSONS
ELIZABETH CITY — After hearing unanimous and staunch opposition to an outlying landing field in northeastern North Carolina, Rear Adm. David Anderson said his “excursion” to find an alternative to Site C in Washington and Beaufort counties is still on track.
After the two-part public hearing at Elizabeth City State University ended Tuesday, Anderson said he is not discouraged by the opposition he heard, but by the public’s perception of what the Navy is trying to accomplish in constructing an OLF.
The hearing was conducted by Gov. Mike Easley’s OLF Study Group, reformed in September after a three-year hiatus to study alternatives to an OLF at the Navy’s preferred Site C in Washington and Beaufort counties.
In opening remarks at both sessions, Anderson repeatedly reminded the public that the need for an additional OLF to train pilots for night landings on aircraft carriers “is not an encroachment issue.” It has been heavily touted by OLF opponents that the Navy wants an OLF in rural northeastern North Carolina because development in and around Virginia Beach, Va., has made it difficult to simulate nighttime carrier landings at sea.
Despite Anderson’s assertions, Julian Baker, a fourth-generation farmer from Gates County, sees an OLF in northeastern North Carolina as a Virginia problem projected on a neighboring state. His comments were applauded and cheered by the audience, with its members overwhelmingly opposed to an OLF in northeastern North Carolina.
Baker said the footprint of an OLF at the proposed Sandbanks site in Gates County would take from him everything his family has worked for during the past 150 years.
Six new potential OLF sites were proposed by the Navy and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources at the study group’s meeting last month. They bring to 22 the number of proposed OLF sites in North Carolina and Virginia. Anderson’s staff sent the information it has collected on the six new sites to Navy Secretary Donald Winter. On or about Nov. 15, Winter is expected to make a decision on whether to add any of the new sites to the Environmental Impact Statement, Anderson said.
Two of the newly proposed sites are in Gates County, and two others are in Camden County. The remaining two sites are in southeastern North Carolina. One is the Angola Bay Gamelands in Duplin and Pender counties. The other is Hofman Forest, land owned primarily by North Carolina State University, in Jones and Onslow counties.
Todd Higginson, a pastor in Gates County, said he wanted to “give Admiral Anderson more consideration than the Navy has given North Carolina,” but he said communication between the Navy and the state is still lacking.
Rebecca Rodan, 13, of Gates County summed up the message the public sent the study group.
The study group will hold its next meeting Nov. 1 in Raleigh. It will discuss potential economic effects an OLF may have on each of the six new sites.