After years of writing some of the best coverage in the state on the Navy's Outlying Landing Field, Jack Betts at the Charlotte Observer takes a wrong turn this morning in his Sunday column.
RALEIGH -- If the Navy really wants an outlying landing field, it ought to call North Carolina's hand -- right now. For a long time the state and many of its environmental groups have been saying they don't want the OLF near the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, but they'd support an alternative site.
While it's true that many have been saying they'd support an alternative site, there are also many who have been saying NO SITE is appropriate. Parmea, for example, has made an excellent case that the Navy's own regulations preclude moving forward on an outlying landing field. After reading all of his well-researched posts, I am convinced he is right.
In a lot of ways, the fight over the Navy's preferred site is, well, over, even as it holds a final public hearing in Charlotte on Tuesday.
But the need for an OLF remains. And if the Navy wants to make it happen faster than its flawed proposal that's still tied up in federal court and red tape and tedious environmental research and requirements for public hearings and comment, it would put the state of North Carolina to work.
The need for an OLF remains? Says who? The mayor of Virginia Beach? A couple of admirals whose careers are on the rocks? Betts is wrong. The need for an OLF has not been established. It is simply a WANT - not a need - on the part of Virginia politicians (including Liddy Dole) to make up for mis-managing development around facilities in southeastern Virginia.
Once you accept the reality that the entire OLF is a matter of expediency, born of a sweetheart deal between Senators Liddy Dole and John Warner, the rest of Betts' column is mostly moot.
For a long time, conservationists and environmentalists and farmers have been saying they want the OLF in North Carolina -- just not up there near the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge where tens of thousands of tundra swans and snow geese roost and fly out every day in the winter looking for food. The implication -- in fact, their outright assertion -- is that they want it at a more appropriate N.C. site. That has been Gov. Easley's position.
Which now obligates the state to help the Navy find the right site and to assist the Navy in getting all the boxes checked and all the permits delivered for an alternate site -- if the Navy is wise enough to take the state up on its offer.
The truth is, NO ONE REALLY WANTS AN OLF IN NORTH CAROLINA. The OLF was a Liddy Dole Deal A full-functioning base for the aircraft with the enormous economic impact? That would be a different story. That would be a welcome opportunity for North Carolina to get some benefit from selling land to the US Navy. But an outlying landing field? That's nothing more than a very loud and dangerous dump placed in our state, with virtually no economic benefit.
The truth is GOVERNOR EASLEY DOESN'T EVEN SEEM TO UNDERSTAND THE ISSUE either. He came late to the party after armies of NO OLFers finally wore him down. Same with Burr, Jones, Hayes and all the other foot-draggers in the Party of Greed. They've accepted the Navy's assertion on face-value that an OLF is needed. After all the lies from the Navy around Site C, you'd have to be a fool to accept anything the Navy says at face value.