Opponents Adamant Against Navy Airfield In N.C.

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While some older, neglected airports may be getting a second look from their communities, the challenge of finding a site for a new airport is not getting any easier. In North Carolina, the Navy's effort to build a landing field in a rural county so its F/A-18 Super Hornet jet pilots can practice carrier landings has drawn opposition from every conceivable quarter, for every conceivable reason -- it would be noisy, it would take 33,000 acres of land off the tax rolls in a poor county, it would destroy wildlife habitat, it would endanger migratory birds (and pilots), and it would force family farmers off their land with inadequate compensation. So said a long line of opponents at a hearing in rural Washington County last Saturday. The Navy says the landing field is necessary to support a larger surge-ready force. The site is centrally located between the Oceana and Cherry Point Air Stations in Virginia. The Sierra Club warns that the site is within five miles of a wildlife refuge that is the winter home of more than 100,000 tundra swans and snow geese, large birds that could damage or wreck the fighter jets in the case of a collision. The Navy has said it is aware of the bird hazard but says it is "manageable." Last weekend's hearing was one of a series conducted around the state by a joint Navy-civilian study group, which is scheduled to make a recommendation on the Washington County site by the end of April.