Remain open-minded about OLF

Published 8:33 am Saturday, February 21, 2009

To the Editor:

In response to the column by Kay Pope (“OLF should concern all citizens, Feb. 18), I would offer that urging opposition to a vital military project before the facts are known is detrimental to the public interest. Pope offers a lengthy list of concerns, most of which will be addressed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement to be published this summer.

At that time, the public will have the opportunity to participate in public hearings and provide informed comments on the project.

The Navy believes that the OLF will bring tangible benefits. The Navy will attempt to minimize reduction in tax revenue and allow for current owners to retain their property to the greatest extent possible.

The OLF will result in hundreds of construction jobs over a two-year period and require 62 permanent, civilian positions to operate and maintain the facility, with annual pay and benefits totaling more than $4 million.

By working with public and private organizations to identify compatible industries that could operate near the airfield, the Navy believes the OLF could result in additional economic or environmental opportunities for the local community — opportunities aligned with the county’s long-term goals.

When possible, existing uses of the land will continue — farming and timber operations are compatible with airfield operations. To ensure that land uses remain compatible, the Navy will provide one-time restrictive use payments to property owners to continue current land use activities. Regarding preservation of historical sites, graveyards and Native American burial grounds, the Navy will follow all applicable laws.

Pope’s suggestion that sending additional squadrons to MCAS Cherry Point would obviate the need for an additional OLF is erroneous. In fact, as stated in the original EIS, basing four or more squadrons of Super Hornets at Cherry Point would require an OLF to support those aircraft.

The Navy can only ask that citizens remain open-minded and take the time to understand what the OLF is (and is not) about before taking a position.

Rick Keys, Aviation Ashore Readiness,

U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Norfolk