Thursday, October 18, 2007

Locals Urged To Attend OLF Meeting

by Cal Bryant - October 17th, 2007 - Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald

ELIZABETH CITY - The battle to keep the Navy from building an Outlying Landing Field (OLF) at one of two proposed sites in Gates County now shifts towards Elizabeth City.

There, on October 23, the North Carolina OLF Study Group will conduct a public hearing at Elizabeth City State University in the Floyd Robinson Auditorium of the Mickey Burnim Fine Arts Center. The hearing is scheduled from 3-5 p.m. with an hour recess and then continuing from 6-8 p.m.

Local officials with Citizens Against OLF are strongly encouraging Gates County residents to attend the Oct. 23 meeting.

“The Citizens Against OLF group needs 500 citizens from our county to be on site when the Governor's OLF Study Group arrives in Elizabeth City on Tuesday, October 23,” said Laura Dickerson.

Dickerson added that individuals and groups are encouraged to be ready to leave at 12:30 p.m from the old Sunbury School.

We are at war. As a result I believe that this issue deserves participation and attention. However I find it interesting that neither side of the activists in this issue will answer questions that I have, so I have had to dig out the answers on my own.

My earliest reaction was noted in my comments below the 9/28/2007 article by Conservative writer Bob Steinburg (which you can find if you scroll down, or click here). Bob is opposed to the OLF being in Northeastern North Carolina. I poked some fun at Bob for some of his exaggerations and for aligning himself with some people who are provably anti-war and anti-military. Bob is not anti-military. I have talked with Bob enough to be comfortable with that. However those exaggerations and alignment with people who I see as enemies of our freedom concerned me some then and I felt it important to point them out. That does not mean I think we that we should build an OLF here in the Inner Banks.

Bob already had come to the conclusion that an existing military field (Fort Pickett, 50 miles Southwest of Petersburg, VA) was the best solution that he saw. After research I am impressed with Bob's arguments and concur. Bob is one of the few people who has looked at the options and even asked the question, "Where should the OLF go?" Too many people simply say, "I don't care, No OLF and certainly not here!" That last attitude is not something I am comfortable with.

I have come to share Bob's opinion for what I believe are strong reasons.

When the base closings of the last 20 years took place, the military assured us that they had looked intently at all these facilities and that there was no military need for any of them. It turns out that a half dozen military air fields were closed in the North Carolina and Virginia areas. If the military was wrong, why will they not at least look at using these existing facilities before buying land and building something new. Are they afraid they will be accused of making a mistake? Isn't that argument proved by their claiming they need an OLF at all?

Fort Pickett is the closest existing airfield to Oceana while not being close to any population center. It is about the same distance from Oceana as the area the Navy claim they favor, Washington County, NC. The Navy wants 25,000 acres around any new field so they do not have to worry about population encroachment. At Fort Pickett an area 10 miles wide by 20 miles long, over 45,0000 acres is already publicly owned. No farmers have to have their livelihood disrupted to acquire this land. We don't have to spend years acquiring the land and risking the courts failing to properly compensate people. Doesn't that out way going anywhere new? Isn't NO taxpayer dollars a much better deal? Isn't 45,000 acres better than 25,000 acres?

Pocohontas State Park is 50 miles from the existing Fort Pickett. That is much better than Merchants Millpond State Park and the Dismal Swamp State Natural Area which are within 10 miles of the locations in Gates County now being looked at. In fact because of the concentration of natural areas and parks in Northeastern North Carolina, it is impossible to find an area for a new OLF that is as far from any state park or natural area as the existing Fort Pickett. Shouldn't any new facility be a significant improvement in this regard over Fort Pickett? As long as it serves the Navy's purpose shouldn't they care about not interfering with nature or the environment?

I have stopped being concerned about finding a place for the OLF. There is no argument that has been advanced that is not satisfied by Fort Pickett. I have become an advocate of asking, "why should we allow the Navy to even look at new facilities unless they can explain why an existing facility like Fort Pickett is not a good answer?" "Why not Fort Pickett?"

When the opposition was led primarily by people who were anti-military, there might have been some argument that the NO OLF group was wrong for the wrong reasons. Now it is becoming clear that people like Fred Smith, a conservative candidate for Governor; Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr, conservative Senators; and Joe McLaughlin, conservative candidate for U.S. Congress have reached the conclusion that a new facility is not the way to go. The Navy needs to stop looking for new sites, especially new sites with serious environmental concerns . . . until they can explain "Why not Fort Pickett, or some other existing facility?"

I don't believe they can.


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