OLF foes understand fully the impact the field will have

Published 8:52 am Saturday, March 7, 2009

Rick Keys asks that we keep an open mind about the Navy’s proposed outlying landing field siting in the commonwealth (“Remain open to OLF,” Feb. 22), implying that we just don’t understand the need, the facts and the impacts.

I guess we poor, rural, country bumpkins just cannot comprehend the complexities of a needless, land-grabbing exercise manipulated by a back-room deal between “our” governor and the Navy.

We are concerned about the wasteful spending to prop up Oceana, a base that has been identified within the last four years as inadequate for the Navy’s needs or not satisfying basic aviation safety requirements by the Department of Defense inspector general, the House Armed Services Committee and the Base Closure Commission.

I guess they, too, should have waited for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, a document which will never address the Oceana issues because the Navy’s contrived statement of purpose and need deliberately ignores the significant deficiencies of that facility.

The Navy’s aviators deserve the best training we can provide them. When they have to fly in and out of Oceana, they don’t receive what they deserve. The OLF will not fix that.

And by failing to mitigate the deficiencies at Oceana, the Navy’s proposal does not address the problem holistically. Instead, it buys time until the inevitable shutdown of Oceana as a master jet base due to its small size, severe encroachment, inability to expand and the requirements of the next generation of carrier aircraft. And the cost of buying time, in an era of ever scarcer national security dollars, will be at least $250 million, according to congressional sources.

But let’s talk about us — the very vocal majority. In exchange for our land and loss of quiet enjoyment, we understand that the Navy would like to make it up to us with an economic solution.

So, the Navy has had a year to put something on the table — where is it? A paltry 62 jobs, joint use of the landing field so that we invite more aviation noise at the OLF, the limited ability to farm, hunt and roam on land we now own — these cannot be regarded as a serious substitute for the benefits of unqualified ownership.

Pronouncements to the contrary, an OLF will alter our quality of life, our bucolic atmosphere and our rural serenity. How can we seriously consider your proposal to “help” us, when you, in fact, ignore us?

It should be clear by now that we are not for sale. But your attempts to buy us off and to convince us that we will not be inconvenienced is falling on deaf ears, ears that will become even more deaf when the OLF gets here.

The noise studies being undertaken, no matter how well regarded in the scientific community, are an insult to the citizens. The inherent lack of logic in taking a few seconds of a single noise event and “averaging” it over a 24-hour period is worthy of derision.

The representation that the aviation noise is not so bad or disruptive is repudiated by the Navy’s payment of $32 million to residents around Oceana to settle their noise complaint filed in federal court. If the noise is “not so bad” why were taxpayers’ dollars spent to dismiss the lawsuit?

So in the face of this, we should wait until the Navy gives us 45 or 90 days to respond to a draft environmental impact statement that it spent millions of dollars and more than a year to assemble, a study that ignores the underlying failure of Oceana and seeks to shift some of the noise and safety issues out of the densely populated areas around Oceana into our back yards?

Mr. Keys, we may be country folks, but we are neither stupid nor uninformed.

When your organization dealt behind the back of our locally elected leaders, it forfeited our trust. In a democracy, the people count, a lesson that over which we have fought wars.

Giving up our land while the underlying failure of Oceana is not addressed is a sacrifice we will not make. We understand that the federal government has the constitutional power of eminent domain and can take our land against our will. But that is not going to cause us to surrender it to you, nor will we keep our powder dry while the Navy crafts the administrative record to justify its visionless effort.

What we demand is strategic thinking about the future of naval aviation. Our nation deserves that.