ELIZABETH CITY — A bomb threat at Elizabeth City State University on Tuesday delayed for 15 minutes, a public hearing on a proposed outlying landing field in northeastern North Carolina but it didn't deter discussion about the OLF.
Despite the threat, hundreds of people lined up outside the Mickey L. Burnim Fine Arts Center on the ECSU campus to have their chances to speak about the possibility of an OLF being located near their communities. Among those eager to speak to Gov. Mike Easley's OLF Study Group was Dorothy Owens of Camden County. She lives adjacent to one of the six new N.C. sites proposed by the Navy in September.
"I live in the direct path of the enemy with no place to run and no place to hide," she said during her three-minute address to the study group. "My enemy is the OLF. Its weapon is noise bombardment and the contamination of my land with jet noise and jet fuel."
Owens said her family in the 18th century settled the land where she lives. She raises award-winning Arabian horses on that land. An OLF near her land would make it impossible for her to continue that business, Owens said. Owens also cares for her 35-year-old autistic daughter who is terrified of overflying aircraft.
"If an OLF were to come here, my business would cease to exist," Owens said. "As you can imagine, horses don't do well with screaming jets flying by. My autistic daughter, who lives with us, is, as many autistic people are, terrified of planes. She runs to her room and hides even when crop dusters fly over our house."
The hearing came in the wake of political opposition to four of the six new sites proposed by the Navy and N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources at the study group's meeting last month.
Two of the newly proposed sites are in Gates County, and two others are in Camden County. The remaining two sites are in southeastern North Carolina. One is the Angola Bay Gamelands in Duplin and Pender counties. The other is Hofman Forest, land owned primarily by North Carolina State University, in Jones and Onslow counties.
In his opening remarks Tuesday, Rear Adm. David Anderson, the Navy's top officer on the OLF project, said he wanted to "get right down to the individual" as an OLF site is chosen somewhere in North Carolina or Virginia. During the hearing, Anderson heard people talk about potential effects an OLF would have on the proposed sites and people who live near them. Their concerns were similar to concerns voiced at OLF public hearings held in March and April.
"I live on a century farm," Gates County resident Vicky Taylor said. "My parents, in their 80s, live right next door to us. My father is a Pearl Harbor survivor. The Sandbanks contour line separates our homes ... goes right down the middle between them. If an OLF were to be put there, the high ground would go to you. The swamp would go to us."
John Morrison, legal counsel for the Camden County Board of Commissioners, also wanted to focus on potential effects an OLF could have on humans rather than the environmental affects of an OLF.
"I don't want to talk about the birds, though we've got as good of birds as anywhere," he said. "We are dependent on our tax base for revenue. If an OLF comes here, the Navy — whose mission is to protect us — the grand irony is the Navy will be destroying us."