Caravan Of Opposition To OLF

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It was a huge show of opposition Wednesday against the proposed Outlying Landing Field. Dozens of farmers formed a caravan of tractors and made their way down Highway 64 in Washington County. The public show of opposition came before Wednesday night's final public hearing in Eastern Carolina.
About thirty to forty farmers rolled out on their tractors to show their opposition to the Navy's OLF plans, which they say will take over area farms and devastate the community.

If you were unable to attend any of the meetings, written comments can be mailed or faxed, no later than April 24, 2007 to:

Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Atlantic
Attn: OLF SEIS Project Manager
6506 Hampton Blvd
Norfolk, VA 23508-1278
fax: 757-322-4894

Click here for a link to the Navy's environmental impact statement.

Click here for a link to the technical document. It's called the "Bash Assessments and Conceptual Bash Plans."

Click here for a link to the WITN-7 OLF news blog. You can read statements from opponents and also add your own comments.

HISTORY:

One of the nation's top environmental officials visited the site of a proposed Navy landing field in March to express his concerns about the plan. Dale Hall, director of the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service and a presidential appointee, says the Navy's preferred landing strip would endanger the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge under his care.

Hall says the Navy hasn't yet explored all viable alternatives to the proposed outlying landing field in Washington and Beaufort counties. Hall and environmental groups have questioned whether the landing strip would threaten the nearly 100,000 snow geese and tundra swan that visit annually. The Navy argues that there is a critical need for the landing field. It would support training for jet fighters based in Virginia and North Carolina.

The Navy's possible plan to poison birds at the proposed outlying field is causing serious debate.

That plan was outlined in one of the technical documents supporting the Navy's draft supplemental environmental impact.

The report lists some standard techniques to remove wildlife from an airport site, like pyrotechnics, propane cannons and the use of chemical repellents. It also says the use of controlled toxicants should be investigated and employed on an as needed basis, and cites avitrol and DRC 1339. Both of these poisons are toxic for birds.

The navy's proposed landing site in Washington County is near Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuge. The refuge covers section of Washington, Beaufort and Hyde counties. During one observation in December alone, there were more than 100,000 tundra swans and snow geese near the Pungo Lake section of the refuge.

Mike Beiger of the U.S. Department of Agriculture worked on the proposal for the Navy. He says the idea is like using rat poison to control rats. He says they would target birds like Eurpoean starlings and pigeons, not the tundra swans and snow geese at nearby Pocosin National Wildlife Refuge.

How would they make sure the tundra swans and snow geese aren't accidentally poisoned? Beiger says you have to have qualified biologists who know what they are doing and know how to use the product. He says they could poison five birds or 5,000 a year, depending on the circumstances.

While he says it would be inappropriate to use the poison on the swans and geese, the report recommends other methods be used, such as removing any potential food sources, and harassment techniques like border collies, pyrotechnics, propane cannons, and radio controlled devices.

The Navy released a new environmental impact study showing it still prefers to build a new jet landing strip on a site in eastern North Carolina.

The executive summary says the Navy's preferred alternative for construction and operation of an outlying landing field is Site C in Washington County.

Environmentalists have expressed concerns about a nearby wildlife refuge and a resurgent red wolf population.

The strip, called an outlying landing field, or O-L-F, would be located midway between military air bases in Virginia, and Havelock, where F/A-18 Super Hornet jet fighters are to be based.

The site could be used by aircraft at the Navy's Oceana Air Station at Virginia Beach and the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point at Havelock and, according to the study, "provide the capability to reduce the total volume of operations at both locations."

See "More Stories" below for stories from the past two years on the OLF controversy.


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