Camden prepared to fight an OLF

Published 5:01 am Friday, February 8, 2008

By Staff
Camden County has $4 million socked away for an emergency like a hurricane.
County officials feel they have something just as bad on the horizon, and they’re pulling out their checkbook now, before it strikes, to try and stop it.
Camden has hired a top-flight legal team out of Raleigh to block the U.S. Navy from locating an outlying landing field in their neck of the woods.
County Attorney John Morrison announced the legal team Wednesday night before a standing-room-only audience of residents opposed to the Navy’s $230 million outlying landing field project, according to a story published in The Daily Advance. The meeting was sponsored by the Camden-based group Concerned Citizens Against the OLF, and was held inside the cafeteria at Camden County High School.
Camden’s share of the legal expenses will be paid from the county’s $4 million emergency fund, according to John Morrison, the county’s attorney. The fund is designed to cushion the blow of something like a hurricane.
Last month the Navy announced that sites in Camden and Gates counties as well as three in Virginia, have been picked for a 30-month study to determine their suitability as locations for an OLF. Fighter pilots would use the field to practice takeoffs and landings similar to those performed on aircraft carriers. After years of effort, Beaufort and Washington County residents were able to convince the Navy that a site here isn’t in the best interest of residents or the Navy.
Now Camden County hopes to do the same thing. Instead of broad-based grassroots efforts, Morrison has his sights set on a five-person legal team. The Raleigh-based law firm Poyner &Spruill has been hired to spearhead the fight.
Morrison said one of the team’s attorneys specializes in environmental law and was previously chief counsel to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the state agency that worked with the Navy in developing a list of potential OLF sites, including the one at Hale’s Lake in Camden.
Another lawyer is a retired Judge Advocate General, or JAG, officer and former counsel to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Morrison said that other counties in northeastern North Carolina opposed to the OLF have been contacted and asked to help cover the costs of legal assistance. He said the goal was to form an alliance conveying a unified political front to prevent the Navy from picking sites in Camden or Gates counties for an OLF.
It will be interesting to see how other counties help the Camden effort, or don’t. A number of our neighbors at least gave moral support when Washington County was waging the OLF war. We can expect that Camden and Gates will get at least that from their neighbors to the south.
Members of the grassroots opposition group NO OLF, based in Washington and Beaufort Counties, have formally resolved to support residents of Camden and Gates counties in their fight against an OLF. We would hope our battle-tested local governments will do the same.