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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Navy's Environmental Record

Posted February 26, 2007 8:24 a.m. EST
Updated February 26, 2007 10:52 a.m. EST

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.