Local News

New Navy Study Has Changed Nothing in OLF Battle

Posted February 26, 2007 7:34 p.m. EST

— It's eastern North Carolina versus the U.S. Navy, and the fight grew more intense Monday.

The dispute centers on 30,000 Washington County acres that the Navy wants to turn it into a field where carrier pilots can practice takeoffs and landings. The official term is outlying landing field.

Opponents say the plan will disturb a wildlife refuge for migratory birds. The Navy says there’s a safe way to do it.

At times, there are thousands of birds in the part of the county that the Navy has targeted. Some argue that those birds can pose a danger to the Navy’s jets. The Navy disagrees.

“The bottom line is, we believe that we can safely coexist with this refuge and the refuge can safely coexist with this outlying landing field,” said Cmdr. Richard Catore,

The Navy has just released a second study of the area.

It seems clear there is still a big gap to close between the military and its opponents.

“All of the data and the continued experts we bringing in keep bringing us back to the same conclusion,” Rear Adm. David Anderson said. The conclusion is that that Washington County is the best place for an 8,000-foot runway on which Navy jets can practice as many as 70 takeoffs and landings a day.

“They're gonna have an effect on the birds, and they're gonna put their pilots in danger, no question,” said opponent Joe Albea.

“We brought in additional experts. We all have a vested interest in getting this right,” Anderson said in a separate interview.

“I call him a liar…. He is probably admiral No. 6 who's just reading a script,” said Jennifer Alligood, another opponent.>

Anderson said he would like to sort out how people got to the positions and beliefs they hold now.

“These are some of the things, I want to go back to—‘he said, she said.’ Who did? When? Where?”

“It's pretty much the same party line that we've heard for the last six years, nothing new and different,” Albea said.

Opponents have an important ally: Gov. Easley. The governor says he's frustrated with the Navy and is urging North Carolina's congressional delegation to withhold funding for the airfield.>

Anderson says the Navy is “disappointed” and would like to work with the state.

“We want to be good stewards. We want to be good neighbors,” the admiral said.

The Navy has bought almost 2,000 acres in Washington County, leaving 28,000 needed.

It plans to hold public hearings next month and make a final site selection this fall.