04/22/04 — Smug: Navy seems confident of outcome on landing field

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Smug: Navy seems confident of outcome on landing field

A special committee appointed by Gov. Mike Easley to study the issue of locating a Navy Outlying Landing Field has not yet completed its deliberations. Public bodies and private environmental groups have filed actions to prevent the project.

Those bodies also were about to request a temporary restraining order pending settlement of their suits in court.

They agreed to hold off on the request for a restraining order when the Navy indicated it would not move further on the project for two months.

In recent days, the plaintiffs learned that the Navy had proceeded with spending $3.7 million to acquire 1,157 acres in the “core area” of the 32,000-acre site, claiming it had reached purchase agreements before the suits were filed.

Whereupon, the plaintiffs proceeded with their request and U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle promptly — and properly — issued an injunction stopping further action by the Navy until the issues are settled in court.

A lawyer for the Southern Environmental Law Center observed: “The Navy seems hell-bent on making commitments, understanding there is a great deal of uncertainty about whether they’ll be allowed to proceed on this site. Continuing negotiations is one thing. Committing millions of dollars may be another. They are spending taxpayer money and it may be for naught.”

Something else could be involved.

The Navy, from the outset, has been smugly cavalier in dealing with property owners, local public officials and environmental and wildlife groups.

This attitude could be couched in the belief — or knowledge — that the Navy has more friends in high places than the local interests, and is confident it will prevail.

Certainly it appears that the opponents have no strong voices in Washington — and somewhat divided opinion in Raleigh.

And one must wonder if the Navy regards creation of the governor’s task force to study the issue as merely meaningless political theatrics.

If so, members of that special committee apparently were not aware of it. All are credible individuals who have earned respect in their professions and in the public service arena. They have been giving their valuable time in a sincere quest for fairness and in the best interests of all concerned — the environment, wildlife, property owners and public officials — as well as the Navy.

Judge Boyle obviously wants to see that effort have a chance.

Published in Editorials on April 22, 2004 11:12 AM