Keep the OLF, but give us straight answers

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The OLF issue continues to heat up.

An ever-growing coalition of communities has passed resolutions against outlying landing fields. To date, Dinwiddie and Greensville counties are on board with Sussex, Surry, Southampton and King and Queen counties.

A vast majority of the citizens is convinced that we are being railroaded. We are familiar with the contradictory statements from the governor’s office and the latest attempt to save face: “Statements were misconstrued.” No, it is plain enough; we have seen back-pedaling from politicians before. The way the issue has been handled so far does not instill trust.

It is also plain enough the governor will “protect Oceana.” Tim Kaine has made his intent as clear — to make the area attractive to tourism, housing and potential workforce. But, he would do it at the expense of the rural communities to the west. The pig in a poke is impossible to justify in light of the BRAC Commission report which reveals that there are already landing strips in existence specifically for training purposes at Cherry Point, N.C., and Beaufort, S.C., as well as Oceana and Fentress, which is only used at 17 percent capacity. So why does the Navy not use them instead of spending millions of taxpayers dollars on a redundant air strip?

The proposed OLF would be used at night, six nights a week, for a total of 13,600 landings a year — that is 312 nights with 44 flights a night (and they would reserve the right to operate seven nights a week). The City of Virginia Beach and the governor would dump jet noise on the rural communities while enjoying the benefits of the Navy money.

Urban encroachment is nothing new. Norfolk has drawn water from the Nottoway River since World War II; Southampton County gets nothing in return. Virginia Beach draws water all the way from Lake Gaston — the rural communities there get nothing in return. Newport News would draw water from the Pamunkey River at the expense of Native Americans and their environment. The encroachment continues. Rural communities have been raped for decades to benefit the cities.

Virginia Beach and the governor’s office should face up to the problems they created and deal with it there. They alone are receiving and will receive the benefits of the Navy. Yes, the residents of Virginia Beach do not like the deafening noise, but they moved in around it. It did not come to them. No one forced it on them as the mayor and the governor are trying to do on rural counties.

The Navy advised against development for years. City governments ignored it all and development continues to this day. The rural communities, on the other hand, did not ask for any part of it. The governor’s office selected us for targets for OLF. We would be driven off land that has been our livelihood for generations.

Farms bulldozed, archaeological sites and wildlife habitat obliterated, historic churches and cemeteries removed — and for what? So politicians can unload the problem they created and continue making the same mistakes without having to account for their actions and continue to benefit from the Navy’s money. Keep OLF at Fentress and Oceana. With the benefits go the responsibility for the noise pollution.

BILL HANCOCK lives in the Sedley area. He grew up on a Virginia Century farm.