Lots of OLF questions, but not many answers from the Navy

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Many of us concerned about the future of rural Western Tidewater have been corresponding over the Internet, and the consensus is with Ash Cutchin (letter to the editor, The Tidewater News, May 7) in that there were no real answers to the real questions during the Navy scopings.

However, we would like to share with our communities the extent of several of those non-answers to serve as a warning for events yet to come — call it the top 10 dumbest answers/statement list:

10: Who really decided to locate these five OLFs in rural counties?

Navy Answer: Washington County, N.C., is to blame for having these five new OLF sites.

(Reality check: The folks of Washington County had a proposed OLF sprung on them without any input just like all other rural OLF sites. Just who has been deciding where to locate all proposed OLFs? Could it be Gov. Tim Kaine, the Navy and politicians of Virginia Beach?)

9: The farmer asked if his family’s land was the only satisfactory place for an OLF?

Navy answer:

Anyone’s land is justified for the taking since we are protecting your freedom.

(Reality check offered by the farmer to the Navy: My freedom is protected by the U.S. Constitution and your job is to protect the Constitution.

Or, is this a military dictatorship?)

8: I am a little worried about jets flying from Oceana to these inland OLFs. We have two types of weather — either flood or drought. The droughts worry me in that if the jets crash they will put hundreds of acres on fire. Certainly that situation isn’t safe for your jet pilot?

Navy answer: Pilots have very little chance of survival of being rescued over the ocean [and] jet planes won’t cause fires when they crash.

(Reality check:

I have been told, obviously not by the Navy at the scopings, that the accepted practice of crashing a disabled jet is for the pilot to place the plane on auto-pilot and to parachute out. Yes, pilot will be safer landing in a rural county than the ocean, but what about the rural residents? The jet simply crashes “wherever and whenever and on top of whoever” when it runs out of fuel.

7: Why is the noise level in the OLF areas and surrounding areas listed as “averages”?

These averages add in the loud jet-noise with all the ordinary country-noises (including hours of traditional rural sounds — crickets, birds, conversations between people, etc.)

It only takes minutes of intense jet noise to cause hearing problems.

Navy answer:

Later in the process we will have those sound levels listed; we don’t know those numbers now.

(Reality check: In order to figure an “average,” one needs to already have all those numbers.)

6: The Navy wants to “partner with the community” to create additional development around the OLF site. I thought that the Navy wanted to come out to where it was dark so the pilots won’t have any lights to distract them.

Navy answer:

There is so much room in the countryside.

(Reality check:

The only value in rural land is its transformation into something else, as determined by people who do not live on that land. In other words, once the Navy gets its toehold, say goodbye to being a rural county.)

5: If an OLF is built, won’t it close some area roads? With a major area of the county closed off, how can emergency crews respond quickly? How can people get back and forth during routine times?

Navy answer: Don’t worry about those little details.

4: The Navy says it will help the rural areas develop recreational plans for the land. Don’t you think all the hunters, horseback riders, trail bikers, hikers, fishermen, birders, gardeners, etc., already know what to do with their land?

Navy answer: You can’t imagine how many different ways we can assist you with real recreational development (no examples provided).

And, now for the absolute dumbest answer that goes to

questions 3 through 1: A question was asked of, and not answered by, a Navy officer. Another question was asked, and again the officer did not answer. Those around the inquisitive person did not notice anything unusual. But, when he asked a third question the Navy officer left her “station” and went to a deputy sheriff and complained that someone was harassing her.

Reality Check: Obviously, the Navy did not hold these scoping meetings to answer anyone’s questions.

The end. No — “the end to rural Western Tidewater.”

Felice Hancock is a first-generation American and humanities scholar whose interests include rural heritage, ethnobotany and the eight recognized tribes of Virginia. Comments can be directed to info@novaolf.com.