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SWAN QUARTER, N.C. (March 20, 2007) – More than 200 people showed up Monday night to voice opposition to a proposed military jet landing strip in eastern North Carolina, including leadership from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
The auditorium of Mattamuskeet Elementary School was packed for the U.S. Navy’s first of six public hearings on a proposed Outlying Landing Field (OLF) site in Beaufort and Washington counties. Numerous civic leaders, citizens and public officials made their concerned voices heard, raising environmental, social and economic issues.
One such speaker was the Wildlife Resources Commission’s deputy director, Gordon Myers.


“We are not talking about minor inconveniences, nor are we talking about small adjustments,” said Myers, speaking on behalf of the Commission. “We’re talking about enormously detrimental impacts to migratory waterfowl patterns for one of the largest and most magnificent wintering grounds for migratory waterfowl along the entire Atlantic Flyway.


“This issue is not about a preferred habitat or a preferred way of life,” he continued. “It’s about essential habitat and a sustainable way of life, the destruction of which threatens the numerous activities that provide solid and balanced economic benefits to North Carolina.”


In addition, the hearing marked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s break in silence on the topic, as the federal agency declared its opposition to this OLF location.
Dale Hall, the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, was concerned that high noise levels and frequent flyovers from Navy jets would consistently disturb the birds.


“We appreciate that (the Navy) came to us on this project, but we must respectfully disagree with their conclusions,” Hall said. “We think we have been fairly clear with our concerns and the risk involved both to wildlife and Navy pilots, but we don’t think the Navy has concluded well regarding our concerns.”


In addition, Hall said no one was sure how the birds’ migratory patterns would be altered, a potentially serious ramification.


“The only thing that is certain in nature is that nothing is certain,” he noted.
The Navy’s desire to place an OLF in this location has drawn widespread opposition. The proposed site would be within 3.5 miles of the Pocosin Lake National Wildlife Refuge, which harbors hundreds of thousands of large migratory waterfowl in the winter, chief among them tundra swans and snow geese. Called a “globally important bird area” by Hall, the refuge also generates considerable income for the local economy through eco-tourism, hunting and fishing.


The Navy has also received criticism for its proposed measures of managing the birds, which includes the use of the controversial chemical Avitrol, the effects of which have never been studied on large waterfowl.


Other public comments touched upon the displacement of local farmers with generational ties to the land, jets dumping excess fuel on low-lying terrain with an extremely high water table, and the Navy’s apparent reluctance to seriously consider the merits of other locations.


Monday’s event was the first of six public hearings scheduled by the Navy. The final hearing will take place on April 4 in Plymouth.
 

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Guys - this is serious stuff. Bad, Bad stuff for the NC coastal lands. The more I read the more I realize just how much harm this OLF would do to the wildlife both above and below the waterline. Don't get me worng, I'm a former sailor myself and fully support our military. It's just this plan ain't the right one.

There is an interesting article in April's NC Sportsman Magazine (the April issue isn't on line yet) about how the truth is now getting out over the Navy's motivation. Admiral John B. Natham, Navy Fleet Force, said the Navy "must have a new outlying landing field to solve the training and fighter jet-noise problems created by encroachment around Oceana and Fentress Naval Landing Field in Chesapeake"

Seems the Virginians that work and live around the Navy base are complaining about the noise. I think the Navy can find a nice area for the remote landing filed that isn't in the middle of fragile coastal waters and the nesting home of millions of birds.

Not to be missed here is the point that the Navy knows and admits that it will have to control the bird population (read: reduce the amount of birds in the area) because they collide with and get sucked into the jet engines causing crashes. Their past efforts in "controlling" bird poulations involved eradicating the nearby sources of food (bad for the fields and marshes as well as all wildlife in the area) and killing them by more lethal means.

We need NC's elected officials to band together and oppose the current proposed location of the OLF. Please write your congress representatives today!

Before you accuse me of "not in my backyard" syndrome - come spend a few weeks with me - we have lots and lots of Marine and Navy jets, helicopters and Osprey craft flying right over our house on a regular basis. Ask my wife, everytime they fly over I say "thank-you guys for protecting my freedom." I often add "you are welcome in my backyard anytime".

As I mentioned earlier - this is just not the best plan the Navy can come up with and price on the enviroment is too high. They need to rethink this.
 
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