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Judge Halts Work On Navy Landing Field In Eastern N.C.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A federal judge, citing environmentalconcerns, ordered the Navy on Tuesday to stop work on a planned jetlanding field in eastern North Carolina.

The temporary injunction, issued by U.S. District Court JudgeTerrence Boyle, was sought by opponents of the landing field whoargued that the government's environmental impact studiesdownplayed the substantial risk of collisions between jets andbirds in Washington County.

The government also minimized adverse impacts to the nationalwildlife refuge, according to the groups, who sued in January.

The order stops the Navy from negotiating for land, sitepreparation and construction on the site.

In his decision, Boyle said the plaintiffs "have raisedserious, substantial and difficult questions as to whether the Navyacted arbitrarily and capriciously in deciding to construct the OLF(in Washington County), such that the Navy failed to provide theenvironment with the kind and quality of consideration it is dueunder law."

"Plaintiffs have provided significant evidence that the Navymay have failed to take a hard look at the environmental effects ofits decision," Boyle wrote.

The Navy wants to build the outlying landing field, or OLF, inthe middle of more than 30,000 acres of farm land near the town ofPlymouth in northeastern North Carolina. Locals andenvironmentalists objected, and Gov. Mike Easley appointed a taskforce to study the issue.

"This is a major victory for all those who have tried so longto get the Navy to listen to reason and choose a safer, lessdamaging location for jet training," said Audubon North CarolinaExecutive Director Chris Canfield, executive director of AudubonNorth Carolina, among the groups that sued to stop the OLF. "Ihope the Navy will see this stay as a good time to work with stateleaders in coming up with an alternative plan."

Lawyers for environmentalists and the counties of Washington andBeaufort had argued in court that the Navy doesn't know enoughabout how the proposed landing strip could damage the habitat ofthousands of migratory birds in eastern North Carolina.

The plaintiffs had asked for the preliminary injunction whiletheir separate lawsuits make their way through the system.


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