Panel to consider OLF bill

Published 8:44 am Wednesday, February 3, 2010

RICHMOND—One bill is grounded, and another is in a holding pattern: That is the status of two pieces of legislation affecting the proposed location of an Outlying Landing Field in Virginia.

A Senate committee last week killed Sen. Fredrick M. Quayle’s bill requiring the Navy to get General Assembly approval before it acquires property for an OLF. The Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections voted 8-5 to “pass by indefinitely” Senate Bill 6.

However, a different OLF bill is still alive in the House. Delegate William K. Barlow, D-Smithfield, is sponsoring House Bill 887, which makes land use a local matter to be decided by local officials.

“It is an attempt to prevent the Navy from locating an OLF in the three areas of Virginia” that the Navy is considering for an OLF, Barlow said. Barlow said that if his legislation passes, the federal government would not be able to tell local officials how to use the area’s land, giving localities control over land use.

According to Barlow, an OLF would exhaust numerous surrounding acres of land and limit property usage.

“The noise will be so loud, thousands of acres of land will be adversely affected,” he said.

Barlow’s other concern is the removal of citizens from their homes.

“If the Navy can’t purchase the land, they will condemn it,” Barlow said. “[They] will take it from people living there.”

Ted Brown, a media relations spokesman for the U.S. Fleet Forces Command, says a new OLF is necessary for Navy training purposes.

“An additional OLF is critical to providing our pilots a facility where they can realistically train ashore as they operate at sea,” Brown said. “It is also critical to meeting training requirements under both routine and surge conditions.”

The Navy will continue to meet its training commitments by using available facilities until a new OLF is built and operational, Brown said.

HB 887 has been assigned to the House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns. A subcommittee may discuss the proposal next week. Barlow is hopeful legislators will approve the bill.

“We’re going to try, but we can’t tell whether it will pass,” Barlow said. “Chances are no better than 50-50.”