Governor Easley Weighs In On OLF Debate

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Gov. Mike Easley is urging the Navy to take into account the overwhelming local opposition to an outlying landing field and develop alternative proposals following receipt of a report from Judge Sidney S. Eagles on the activities of the OLF Study Group.

Easley sent a letter to North Carolina's congressional delegation and Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter, along with copies of the report from Eagles' who chaired the study group. Winter is expected shortly to announce sites, possibly in Virginia and North Carolina, that the Navy wants to explore further for the training facility.

"The most important information gathered came from the citizens and public officials from affected counties who testified at the study group's public meeting in Elizabeth City," said Easley. "They were overwhelmingly opposed to an OLF in their communities. They see an OLF as almost all burden and no benefit. That is why I am urging our congressional delegation to ask the Navy to take these views into account and develop alternative proposals."

Two months ago Easley activated the OLF Study Group, headed by former state Court of Appeals Judge Eagles, to examine the strategic, economic and environmental aspects of finding sites that will meet the U.S. Navy's training needs, protect the environment, not threaten wildlife and respect the concerns of local communities and property owners. The study group met four times, including a public hearing in Elizabeth City.

"Almost all of the public comments received by the study group stressed that placing an OLF in Northeastern North Carolina would have devastating economic, social and cultural consequences," Eagles said in his letter to the governor.

"Based on expert presentations, exchanges with local governments and citizen testimony that we received, it does appear that the six additional locations may be more suitable from an environmental perspective than Site C (near the Washington-Beaufort county line)," Eagles said.

Eagles added, , "However, the information provided to us also strongly demonstrates that there are genuine concerns that siting any OLF would have substantial adverse economic and cultural impacts to affected communities. If the Navy is to proceed with placing an OLF in North Carolina, it should commit to providing economic incentives and working hand in hand with the communities to mitigate these concerns."

Rear Adm. David Anderson, who has been leading the Navy's effort to locate an OLF, has said that Navy Secretary Winter was expected to decide by Nov. 15 which of the six potential sites, if any, would be selected for further exploration and environmental study.

Meanwhile, it's doubtful the Navy will make an announcement tomorrow narrowing down potential OLF sites.

Tomorrow was the day many believed the Navy would announce which three to six sites will still be considered for an Outlying Landing Field. The Navy is narrowing the field of 17 new sites in North Carolina and Virginia.

WITN talked to a Pentagon spokesperson who says the exact timing for an announcement has not been made.

Navy officials say they are committed to getting all the facts and examining all the options before they make an announcement. We'll keep you posted on when an announcement will be made.