Deadline nears for environmental-related OLF input

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 6, 2008

FRANKLIN—With just a couple of days left to submit comments and questions for consideration in a required environmental study, opponents of the Navy’s proposed outlying landing field are busier than ever.

Strategy and organizational meetings have been held or are planned during the next week, administrative officials will appear on television and fund-raisers are being arranged.

Meanwhile, both the Navy and its local opponents in the OLF fight are urging interested citizens to remember the midnight Friday deadline for comments and questions.

Any questions about the controversial proposal to dedicate 30,000 acres to a so-called &uot;field carrier landing practice&uot; airfield must be received by that deadline or the Navy is not compelled to respond in its environmental impact statement.

Southampton and Sussex counties share two of the three proposed Virginia OLF sites. Surry and Prince George counties share another. Two other potential locations are in North Carolina.

The federally-required study of the five sites is expected to cover issues as diverse as noise impacts on farm animals and the global-warming impact of cutting down the 2,000 acres or so of trees that would be required for the actual airstrip.

Citizens have submitted questions about the potential impact on counties’ ability to pay their debts with less taxable land on the rolls, about the impact of noise on historic structures and about the methods the Navy plans to use to clear wildlife from the fenced-in portion of the airfield.

&uot;It’s safe to say the Navy appreciates the comments we have received from all the people who are interested in the project,&uot; Navy spokesman Ted Brown said Tuesday.

Brown noted that more than 2,000 comments were submitted during seven public scoping sessions held in locations throughout Southside Virginia and northeast North Carolina.

He said he was unsure how many comments have come in electronically or by mail or fax since then. Also, it is impossible to say yet what are the leading concerns.

&uot;We have not had the opportunity yet to go through the comments and catalog them,&uot; he said.

Leaders of the group Virginians Against the Outlying Landing Field hope that people from the potentially affected areas will get busy and submit even more comments during the next couple of days.

&uot;We want them to submit as many concerns as they possibly can think of,&uot; Tony Clark, president of the group, said Tuesday.

Clark encouraged people to log on to the Navy’s site,, and click on the public involvement link to submit their questions.

But he also asked that those who do so visit and send a copy to his group of whatever they provide to the Navy.

&uot;The reason we’re putting this list together … is so we have some sort of formal way to say that everything has been submitted,&uot; he said. &uot;We want to make sure that every question that was submitted has been addressed.&uot;

Clark and about 15 other invited leaders from Southampton, Sussex and Surry counties met with Washington, D.C., attorney Barry Steinberg on Saturday to discuss strategy and to reorganize the corporate structure of the opposition group.

&uot;We’re finally kind of tying Sussex, Surry and Southampton together,&uot; he said, explaining that some committees had been restructured to include Sussex and Surry leaders.

Clark said the group is also planning some events in the near future to help raise money to support its cause and will &uot;regroup and refocus (its) efforts&uot; a bit following Friday’s deadline.

Supervisors from Southampton, Sussex, Surry and Greensville counties will meet next week with Steinberg, whom they have hired to represent the counties against the Navy.

&uot;We’ll be talking about where we go from here,&uot; Southampton County Administrator Mike Johnson said. Steinberg has been working with VAOLF to put together a master list of questions that have been submitted by area residents. At last count, officials said, that list had grown to 500 questions.

As the deadline passes, the attorney’s role likely will change. Next Tuesday’s closed meeting is expected to help determine that future role.

Hampton Roads residents will get a chance on Sunday to hear from both sides of the issue, as WVEC airs Joel Rubin’s &uot;On the Record,&uot; featuring a 15-minute segment with Navy’s Adm. David Anderson and another 15-minute segment that will feature Johnson, Surry County Administrator Tyrone Franklin and Sussex County Administrator Mary Jones representing the opposition.

The program will be taped on Friday, and it will air at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.