Butterfield, Jones request OLF termination

Washington, D.C. — Congressmen G. K. Butterfield and Walter B. Jones have asked the Navy to terminate the U.S. Navy’s efforts to build an outlying landing field in North Carolina.

“At this point the people of Gates and Camden counties have made it clear that and outlying landing field is not a good match for their communities,” Butterfield said. “It’s time the Navy end the waiting game and shut this project down.”

Butterfield and Jones made a written request after the Navy announced it was suspending its work and planning on the project until at least 2014. The Navy said Thursday that it would delay further action on the outlying landing field (OLF) under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) process until it initiated its study on potential east coast basing of the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). A Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the OLF had been expected in August 2009, but has yet to be released.

Butterfield and Jones sent the letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus requesting immediate termination of the OLF project.

In the letter, Butterfield and Jones cited the lack of clear operational necessity, respect for local communities and fiscal concerns as reasons to terminate the project.

In the original Notice of Intent (NOI) filed by the Navy in 2008, the Navy stated that the OLF support Field Carrier Landing Practice for fixed-wing aircraft at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The airfield would be used for touchdown and takeoff of planes to simulate landing on an aircraft carrier.

The NOI listed five potential sites for the 8,000 foot runway, including two in North Carolina: Sandbanks site in Gates County and Hale’s Lake site in Camden County. These sites are represented by Butterfield and Jones, respectively.

From the onset of the project, the local communities have expressed tremendous concern over potential adverse impacts of project on the environment, economy and quality of life. According to the Navy, no aircraft would be permanently based at the airfield and operations at the OLF would create very few jobs.

Given the delay and lack of community support, Butterfield said that he hopes that the Navy will seriously consider eliminating eastern North Carolina as a possibility.