Webb says his priority is Oceana

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 14, 2008

WASHINGTON—Political leaders and opponents of a Navy outlying landing field heard something Thursday that they probably already knew.

Any strategy to fight the Navy’s proposed OLF that suggests the sacrifice of Oceana Naval Air Station will earn little support in Washington.

A U.S. senator, two senators’ aides and a congressman all made it clear during a meeting here Thursday afternoon that they could not support OLF opponents at the expense of losing Oceana from Virginia Beach.

The Commonwealth of Virginia gets $43 billion a year in benefits from Department of Defense installations in the state, Sen. Jim Webb told the 25 or so who attended the meeting in a stuffy, packed conference room in the Russell Senate Office Building.

&uot;If we’re going to put Oceana on the table, frankly it is going to be hard to get a consensus on that,&uot; added U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-3rd). &uot;Giving up on Oceana is going to be heavy lifting.&uot;

Scott’s district includes Surry County, one of three Virginia locations being studied by the Navy for the &uot;field carrier landing practice&uot; facility.

Southampton and Sussex counties share the other two Virginia sites under consideration. Two others are located in North Carolina.

Scott, Webb and members of their staffs attended the meeting with members of U.S. Sen. John Warner’s staff and a representative from Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s office.

Local officials who made the trip included Del. Roslyn Tyler (D-75th), Del. William Barlow (D-64th), most of Southampton County’s and Sussex County’s boards of supervisors, a member of Surry’s Board of Supervisors and county administrators and other officials from Southampton, Sussex, Surry and Greensville counties.

Barry Steinberg, a Washington, D.C., lawyer hired by the four counties, made brief presentations to both Webb and Scott. Both Barlow and Tyler also made impassioned pleas for support.

Steinberg argued that Oceana &uot;is broken,&uot; as evidenced by the report from the last Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Those problems will not be solved by a new OLF, he said.

&uot;We could spend $100 million putting an OLF in Southampton, Sussex or Surry County and wake up five years from now and realize we’ve got to move the master jet base because the next generation of fighter won’t work in Oceana.&uot;

Photo by Doug Chesson