Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Opposition to OLF builds

Now that Democratic Gov. Mike Easley and Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue and Republican U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr have formally opposed the Navy’s choice of Washington County for a proposed outlying landing field, others are clamoring to get on record against it. The Washington County site is the worst of five the Navy is pondering because it is so close to the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, where wintering waterfowl from the Arctic Circle would endanger costly FA 18 Super Hornet jets – or where the birds would have to be forced off nearby foraging grounds.
There’s a lot wrong with that site. It would take thousands of acres of prime farmland out of production, provide virtually no permanent jobs, reduce the local tax base and, mostly, save residents of other Navy facilities near Virginia Beach from the annoyance of noisy flights as pilots practice aircraft carrier landings.
The list of opponents has been building for awhile. Republican Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler was among the first to take a stand against the Navy, and so have a number of other individual state leaders in Raleigh and Congress. N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight has long been on record against the Washington County site, and House Speaker Joe Hackey joined opponents earlier this year.
Then the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission went on record against it, and the other day the state's Democratic members of Congress urged another site be chosen.
Tuesday, State Treasurer Richard Moore, who is already on record opposing the site, called on the Council of State – comprising the 10 constitutional officers elected statewide such as governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general and so on – to go on record opposing the site.
The council agreed to take a vote soon. His office quoted Moore as saying, “With the Navy continuing to focus on an OLF in Washington County, I think it is imperative that the Council of State say clearly, and with one voice, that this is the wrong decision. Here in North Carolina, we are fiercely supportive of our military, but we must ensure that any decision made on the OLF is done in a comprehensive and careful fashion. The Beaufort-Washington County site is not the right site for our State or for the Navy."
Also Tuesday, a bipartisan group of state representatives filed a resolution calling on the N.C. Delegation to withhold funding for the OLF at the Navy’s preferred site. Sponsored by Republican Rep. Cary Allred of Alamance and cosponsored by Democratic Reps. Tim Spear and Arthur Williams, the resolution reads:
A JOINT RESOLUTION urging the united states navy to find a more suitable location than Washington and Beaufort counties to build its outlying landing field.
Whereas, the United States Navy plans to build an outlying landing field (OLF) in eastern North Carolina to allow pilots to practice night landings on aircraft carriers; and
Whereas, the proposed OLF will consist of 30,000 acres in Washington County within a few miles of the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, where thousands of migratory waterfowl, including snow geese and tundra swans, spend the winter; and
Whereas, some of the adverse effects of the proposed OLF site include a loss of foraging habitat for the migratory waterfowl, a loss of prime farmland for people in Washington and Beaufort Counties, and an increased threat to the safety of the pilots practicing at the site due to collisions with the birds; and
Whereas, opposition for locating the OLF in Washington and Beaufort Counties continues to mount; Now, therefore,
Be it resolved by the House of Representatives, the Senate concurring:
SECTION 1. The General Assembly urges the North Carolina congressional delegation to withhold funding for the United States Navy’s proposed outlying landing field in Washington County until a more suitable location in North Carolina can be found.
SECTION 2. The Secretary of State shall transmit a certified copy of this resolution to North Carolina’s congressional delegation and to the Secretary of the Navy.
SECTION 3. This resolution is effective upon ratification.

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