Navy suspends OLF plans until 2014

Published 9:33 am Friday, January 28, 2011

F/A-18 Super Hornets assigned to the “Black Aces” of Strike Fighter Squadron Forty One (VFA-41) fly over the Western Pacific Ocean in a stack formation. The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and Carrier Air Wing Eleven (CVW-11) are deployed to the Western Pacific. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Christopher L. Jordan.

FRANKLIN—The Navy announced Thursday it has suspended plans to develop an outlying landing field until at least 2014.

The Navy three years ago proposed five possible sites for a new OLF, which would be used by fighter pilots stationed at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach. The sites are in Southampton, Sussex and Surry counties and Gates and Camden counties in North Carolina.

The Navy has decided to focus its efforts on placing squadrons on the West Coast first, beginning in 2015, according to a news release. Placing a field on the East Coast will begin no earlier than 2014.

Dory, near Sebrell, was the considered site for Southampton County. The OLF would affect up to 30,000 acres and remove property from the county tax base.

Capron resident Tony Clark, who is chairman for Virginians Against the Outlying Landing Field, said he was extremely pleased with Thursday’s development.

“To think about how daunting the task seemed three years ago and to realize we have gotten to this point is extremely gratifying,” Clark said. “However, they have just suspended this operation. It hasn’t been canceled. We will hold off on celebrating this until the plug has been pulled on the project.”

Clark and his neighbors in early 2008 banded together to fight the OLF. Their first meeting attended by about 75 people was held at Sebrell Community Center. Many worried about losing the land and farms that had been in their families for generations.

Southampton County Administrator Michael Johnson was pleased to hear about the Navy’s plans to “abort” the process.

“I think it’s important that we recognize the decision to cease work on the environmental impact study doesn’t entirely remove the cloud of uncertainty,” Johnson said. “It changes the timeline for a decision until 2014. While we need to remain vigilant, I think it’s a very positive thing.”

Dallas Jones, chairman for the County Board of Supervisors, also was pleased with the news.

“We didn’t want it anyway,” Jones said. “It’s good news for the county as this point. That’s something that we don’t have to worry about for at least four years.”