Navy finally doing the right thing

Published 9:23 am Saturday, January 29, 2011

After actively opposing the Navy’s proposed outlying landing field for the last three years, I am happily able to say that the Navy is doing the right thing.

After three years, a pile of money and an incalculable amount of anxiety inflicted on folks in Western Tidewater, the Navy is finally doing the right thing. What’s unfortunate is that all of this could have been avoided if the Navy had done the right thing in the first place.

For three years, the Navy has been conducting an environmental impact assessment for placing an outlying landing field in Western Tidewater or northeast North Carolina. What they should have done first is precisely what they will be doing for the next few years, which is trying to determine if they really need one.

Not want one, but need one.

They’ve wanted one for several years. For years, the Navy has wanted an outlying landing field away from the development in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake. Oceana and Fentress — they were there first, by the way — have been heavily encroached upon by residential development, and residents in that development have been complaining about jet noise.

So the Navy has wanted an OLF in rural southeast Virginia to avoid the complaints and lawsuits generated by those living in urban southeast Virginia.

The Navy has also wanted an OLF because it claims Oceana and Fentress don’t have enough capacity for all the training that needs to be done. But if they hadn’t agreed to alter when and how they train at Oceana and Fentress to alleviate noise issues for residents there, there would be plenty of capacity, just as there always has been.

The right thing to do would have been for the Navy to fight off the development around Oceana and Fentress to keep from needing an OLF and to protect the future of Oceana as the East Coast’s master jet base.

Making one community into a scapegoat for another was not the right thing to do.

Now the Navy will determine if it will ever need an OLF here because it will study whether Virginia Beach is a suitable home for the master jet base and the more powerful and noisier F-35. If the Navy determines Virginia Beach is no longer a suitable or safe place for a master jet base, then a half-dozen OLFs won’t guarantee the future of Oceana.