Easley suggests Navy ponder more OLF sites

Published 12:04 pm Thursday, November 15, 2007

By Staff
Study group chairman writes about opposition to six latest alternatives
Staff Writer
Gov. Mike Easley on Wednesday urged Navy leaders and the North Carolina congressional delegation to consider extending the search for an outlying landing field in North Carolina or Virginia.
The action came after Easley received a letter from Sidney Eagles Jr., a former state appeals court judge who chaired a study group.
Eagles is chairman of the governor’s OLF Study Group, which was reactivated in September to study the economic, environmental and social impacts of an OLF at each of six new sites offered by the Navy and Bill Ross, secretary of N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The six sites brought to 22 the number of possible sites the Navy could choose to put its OLF.
The revived study group met four times, including a public hearing in Elizabeth City. Eagles’ letter to Easley is a summary of his observations during those meetings.
Easley included a copy of Eagles’ letter with his letter to Winter and the state’s congressional delegation, asking that more alternatives be developed and considered based on widespread local opposition from residents near four of the six new sites.
Two sites are in Gates County. Two sites are in Camden County in the northeast portion of the state. Two other sites are in southeastern North Carolina. They are Angola Bay in Duplin and Pender counties and Hofman Forest, land owned primarily by North Carolina State University in Jones and Onslow counties.
Eagles said residents living near the four northeastern sights deserve more details about the economic benefits the Navy has promised would land in their areas along with Navy jets of an OLF is built at one of those sites.
Anderson, the Navy’s top officer on the OLF project, is under a Nov. 15 deadline to provide Winter with information about the six new sites. At the Oct. 4 meeting of the study group, Anderson said his staff had already supplied Winter with that information and that a decision whether to formally consider any of the sites would be handed down in mid-November.
Consideration of even more sites seems unlikely based on comments Anderson made to the Daily News at the Oct. 4 meeting in Raleigh.
With the study group serving primarily a “clearinghouse for information,” Eagles said, the former judge said he could not predict whether the study group would reconvene following the announcement of new sites. Eagles said he does not expect an immediate decision from Winter.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, who represents Gates and Pasquotank counties, was concerned about Easley’s reaction to the report.