Local News

N.C. Legislator Asks For Special Session To Discuss Navy Landing Field

Posted January 24, 2004

— Senate leader Marc Basnight has asked Gov. Mike Easley to call a special legislative session so lawmakers can consider changing a law that would allow the Navy to build a landing field in eastern North Carolina.

The legislature approved the law in 1907, giving the federal government exclusive authority over the land it owns.

The law prevents state and local officials from having a say about what the military or other federal agencies do with their land.

"I feel very strongly that we must return to the legislature its rightful case-by-case review on the question of exclusive jurisdiction," Basnight said in a letter to Easley. "This will give our citizens a greater opportunity to have their concerns addressed in instances such as this one."

Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Washington, has also asked for a special session. The General Assembly is scheduled to return in May.

Easley spokeswoman Cari Boyce said the governor's office is looking at the law and the request.

Easley's staff did not immediately respond to a message Saturday after the request of Basnight, one of the state's most powerful lawmakers.

The Navy planned to start this month buying the first 3,000 acres of about 30,000 acres in Washington and Beaufort counties needed for the $186.5 million dollar field.

Combat pilots would practice aircraft carrier landings with F/A-18 Super Hornets based at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Va., and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock.

Navy redeployment plans would base 120 Super Hornets at Oceana and 24 at Cherry Point.

Dozens of families would be forced to sell their farms to make room for the outlying landing field, or OLF. Opponents also worry that the site is just five miles from Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, a winter haven each year for about 100,000 migratory waterfowl.

Two federal lawsuits have been filed to stop the project.

In one suit, the Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife and North Carolina Wildlife Federation contend the Navy has failed to thoroughly examine the environmental impacts of the field, including the risk of collisions of birds and jets.

Washington and Beaufort counties make similar allegations in a separate lawsuit against the Navy.

Navy officials counter that those concerns have been addressed. They rejected Easley's request for U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans to mediate the differences between the Navy and the U.S. Department of Interior, which also questions the site.

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