Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Navy's Environmental Record

Posted February 26, 2007

The Navy today will lay out its plan to build a landing field for its jets just five miles from a national wildlife refuge in Washington County. I am trying hard to keep an open mind on this issue but quite frankly I am having a difficult time.

This is not the first time the Navy has disappointed me on the environmental front. 15 years ago a WRAL camera captured Navy crew members aboard the USS Raleigh illegally tossing dozens of plastic garbage bags stuffed with trash just off the North Carolina. Our story prompted a public outcry. I testified before Congress twice about what I witnessed aboard the ship. But not until Congress threatened to withhold funding for the Navy did military top brass agree to install necessary recycling equipment on its fleet of ships.

I am afraid it is going to take another Congressional threat to stop the stubborn Navy leaders from ignoring common sense and a serious environmental threat in the OLF case. Who in their right mind would insist on a $231 million dollar landing strip just five miles from a very important national wildlife refuge? More than 100,000 migratory waterfowl including snow geese and tundra swans winter in the Pocosin Lakes refuge from October through February.

Pocosin is one of North Carolina's most important yet underrated environmental treasures. If you haven't visited this unique area you should.  Governor Easley is urging Congress to withhold funding for the project until the Navy comes up with another site. I hope Congress agrees.

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  • davidgnews Feb 27, 2007

    This was a bad/lousy idea from the beginning. Thanks for giving it the attention it needs. The folks making these decisions are so far removed from the end result, it's pathetic.

  • fbell Feb 27, 2007

    Good for you and the rest of North Carolina's leaders in at leaset opening up the discusssion of "birds or bullets' scenario of this landing field. In this case, the wildlife refuge, with its birds is probably more dangerous to our warrior pilots, than potential enemy missles and bullets.

    If the Navy really wants to be innovative, how about building an emergency/and or realistic combat training field on one of our barrier islands out of the way of a "natural bird migraton path". The "airports" of WWII were built on sand spits,using steel matting for a runway (not suggesting that in this age of new runway materials for construction). .Maybe the Navy should learn some lessons from our own Marines and think of cambat expediency and no or low collateral damage (Eastern NC voters and wildlife) while restudying their options.

    Retired Army officer

  • lbg Feb 26, 2007

    Bill, thank you for commenting on this issue and for the WRAL coverage. I don't think the citizens of NC realize what is at stake on this issue - not only the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge but a way of life for the farmers and citizens of the area. The arrogance of the Navy in insisting they can remove thousands of large birds from "their airspace" is a disaster waiting to happen. Not only for the birds and citizens but also for the Navy pilots who are being put in harm's way for political purposes in Virginia.

  • SANDHILL Feb 26, 2007

    I have seen what big birds can do to a jet engine and this is just stupid.

  • ncnygirl Feb 26, 2007

    Bill, thanks so much for commenting on this issue. This is pure politics on the Navy's part -- they're kowtowing to Sen Warner and the wishes of his constituents. I am appalled at Burr's and especially Dole's tepid responses on behalf on the people they are supposed to represent. People who want a quick read on this issue should refer to "The Tar Heel of the Week" column in yesterday's N&O.

  • ccan Feb 26, 2007

    Thanks, Bill, and the WRAL team for giving this important issue such great coverage. It just won't work at this site. It isn't safe for the pilots (I'm ex Air Force), and would imperil the refuge and destroy a farming community. What will it take for the Navy to get over its stubborness and come to the table with people all too willing to find a solution!?

    P.S. I am the head of Audubon NC, a key plaintiff in the law suits that got them to redo the work, albeit with disappointing results from what I've read.

  • houdie1031 Feb 26, 2007

    Thanks Bill for commenting on this critical issue. We in Raleigh could use your help in preventing the Heliport going in on Capital Boulevard at Crabtree Creek and the Beltline (See N&O 02-16-07). There must be a better use for the old car dealership than this. We have to speak up for our disappearing ecosystems. As a child growing up and playing in the woods, I know the joy and peace of being a part of nature. We need to preserve the quietness and health of the national wildlife refuge.

  • appgrad95 Feb 26, 2007

    I agree with you, Bill. The Navy should just purchase some of that nice flat farmland a little further inland. There are many counties near but not directly on the coast, that could use an economic boost that this might provide as well.

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