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Previous Post October 27, 2009

Posted by allthingshavelock in MCAS Cherry Point.

Bill doesn’t eliminate OLF in North Carolina

October 25, 2009 2:49 PM

By Sue Book
Freedom ENC

A final Department of Defense authorization bill does not include language sought by members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation to prevent a Navy outlying landing field in the northeastern part of the state.

Local leaders believe an OLF in North Carolina is needed to guarantee the placement of two F/A-18 Super Hornet squadrons at Cherry Point. Pilots of those jets will use the OLF to practice night aircraft carrier landings.

The bill does include language to make sure the Navy keeps Congress informed about its dealings with local governments in the areas being considering for an OLF. However, language sought that would have prevented the Navy from considering the Gates and Camden county sites in northeastern North Carolina for an OLF was not part of the final bill that President Barack Obama is expected to sign.

The Navy has been studying five areas — two in northeastern North Carolina and three in southeastern Virginia — to construct an OLF. Super Hornet pilots from Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Va., and Cherry Point would train using the OLF.

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., 3rd dist., said in a statement that he was disappointed but would continue to fight to prevent an OLF in northeastern North Carolina.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., also expressed disappointment.

“I included strict requirements in this bill for the Navy to consider alternative sites and will continue working to protect North Carolina’s interests,” she said in a statement.

Earlier this year in a speech on the Senate floor, Hagan pushed for an OLF near Cherry Point, but the Navy had rejected a Craven County proposed site earlier and is not considering any other sites than the five locations currently being considered.

The Navy’s first selected an OLF site in Washington County. However, local residents and environmental groups protested that it was too close to the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and would harm the area’s rural lifestyle. They filed lawsuits, and the Navy eventually decided to seek a new OLF location.

The General Assembly approved a law against the Navy taking property for an OLF anywhere in which no military air base is located.

Hugh Overholt, spokesman for the Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow lobby group, said he expected the whole argument may become moot as the Navy moves forward on basing options for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Cherry Point and Beaufort, S.C. are being considered.

“That could move the timing until after the next BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure Commission),” Overholt said.

Oceana narrowly escaped being closed under the 2005 BRAC because of regional growth that often puts aircraft activity in dangerous proximity to developed areas.



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