Here's to the editorial writers at the N&O today. They've come out loud and clear in condemning the sham that the US Navy calls a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement. I for one am happy to give them all the credit in the world for this strong editorial.
The U.S. Navy justified its decision to build a practice landing field for jet fighters close to a North Carolina haven for large migratory birds on the basis of an environmental study found deficient by the federal courts. So, the courts told the Navy to take another look. But its supplemental study turns out to be little more than a warmed-over rationale for why a site near the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is just fine. That conclusion remains unconvincing.
The Navy's full-speed ahead attitude might be understandable if its preferred site in Washington and Beaufort counties, south of Plymouth, was the only conceivable one in North Carolina. It's not, as Governor Easley reminded Congress in a letter he sent soon after the draft study was released. But even though the Navy insists that no final decision has been made, which is technically accurate, it still seems unwilling to seriously consider plausible alternatives.
That's as good an overview of this whole sorry situation as you'll ever find. It cuts to the chase with no varnishing or equivocating.
The new report is over 400 pages, with environmental and economic analysis for five proposed OLF sites. But it fails to adequately explain why the Washington-Beaufort site (Site C in the study) is preferred.
The report minimizes the risk of dangerous aircraft-bird collisions, provided that a suitable management plan were in place to deter birds from foraging on the site. Perhaps that judgment is correct, but the management plan would not be painless. It would include restrictions on crops normally grown in the area that are attractive to birds, such as corn and winter wheat. How large an area would be affected is unclear, but it could be upwards of 24,000 acres. Then, the geese and swans would have to change their forage patterns.
And by the way, there's only one paid hack for the Navy who even remotely thinks the geese and swan would be all that likely to change. If you've been out to the site, you know the sky is filled with birds the size of dogs stretched out for miles and miles across the horizon. A jet flying low at 200 miles an hour would find it impossible to navigate the crowded skies. That's what the US Air Force bird strike experts say, anyway. And they have a whole program dedicated to understanding these risks.
None of the other sites previously identified as worth studying is perfect. But some of them raise fewer troubling issues. For example, about 900 acres of wetlands could be affected at Site E in Craven County, but that seemingly is the site's only major drawback. What makes the Washington/Beaufort site so much more attractive to the Navy, other than the fact that it already has bought land there?
Even while the supplemental study was being prepared, following a ruling by U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle that was upheld by a federal appeals court, the Navy continued land purchases at Site C. The follow-up report does contain more information about environmental impacts at that site, but frankly, it still looks as though Navy minds were made up.
That about says it all. The Navy spend $3.5 million in taxpayer money building a fantasy story about Site C without looking seriously at realistic alternatives. Meanwhile, they've been pushing hard to acquire more land, digging themselves farther and farther into a hole with each new turn of their lying scheme.
If there were any justice in the world, Senators Dole and Burr would get off their asses and shut this deal down. But we already know they won't. We already know they're both representing Virginia voters instead of the people who elected them here in North Carolina. We already know that Republicans in the Party of Greed would sell out our state to curry favor with the chickenhawks in the Bush administration and a bunch of fat-cat admirals who would just as soon lie as look at you.
Good for the News and Observer for calling this one straight.