Thursday, January 27, 2011
For the second time in the past three years, the U.S. Navy has suspended its plans to try to place an Outlying Landing Field in northeastern North Carolina so jet pilots can practice aircraft carrier landings. In 2008, after citizens groups fought the Navy over plans to put the SuperHornet landing field near the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Washington County and politicians eventually weighed in against putting the field so near large migratory waterfowl nesting grounds, the Navy abandoned the Washington/Beaufort counties site and looked elsewhere.
Two of those new sites were in other parts of North Carolina -- Sandbanks in Gates County and Hales Lake in Camden/Currituck counties. The Navy said it was suspending work on the N.C. sites and in Virginia while it focuses on locating the Joint Strike Force on the West Coast.
Jeff Hampton of the Virginian Pilot in Norfolk reports that the Navy has notified local officials about the suspension.
“This email is to provide your office notice of the Navy's decision to suspend release and stop work on the OLF DEIS for construction and operation of an outlying landing field,” according to the Navy notice. The Navy plans to locate new squadrons of the Joint Strike Fighter on the West Coast first and would not consider East Coast facilities until at least 2014, the notice said.
Local officials were glad to hear it.
“I think all of our persistence has paid off,” he said.
It was welcomed news to opponents of the project who have protested at public meetings, created websites to decry the project, lobbied state and national officials and posted "No OLF" signs along yards and road sides. As an acronym for outlying landing field, a bad word in parts of northeastern North Carolina.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Laura Dickerson, president of Citizens Against OLF in Gates County. “We’d rather see it canceled.”In January 2008, the Navy announced plans to build an airfield where jets could safely practice aircraft carrier landings. Possible sites named were in Surry, Sussex and Southampton counties in Virginia and Gates and Camden counties in North Carolina. Opposition immediately got active. Citizen groups created No OLF websites, local governments passed resolutions against the plans, hired lobbyists to oppose them and convinced elected officials to pass bills that could either stop or delay them.
Posted by Jack Betts at 6:01 PM