Easley Turns Up Heat On Navy OLF, Poison
By Elliott West, Raleigh Chronicle News Editor
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
RALEIGH - Over the last few weeks, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley has turned up the heat to fight a proposed Navy F-18 practice landing field or OLF, saying to locate the field next to a wildlife sanctuary in the eastern part of the state is "not acceptable."
In addition to official condemnations of the Navy OLF from the Governor's office, Easley's administration has now sent out statements about the OLF from the Secretary of Agriculture, the NC Wildlife Commission, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the state Public Health Director.
Easley has taken the offensive especially after it was revealed by an eastern NC television station that the Navy planned to use a toxic poison to kill birds to keep them away from airplanes.
Also, the state claims that the Navy field will take away 30,000 acres of farmland currently in use and would cost North Carolina $6 million each year in lost farm revenues.
Poison Would Be Toxic
Most recently, on Friday March 23rd, a letter signed by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Carmen Odom and state Public Health Director Leah Devlin warns of the potential life-endangering threat to people if the illegal pesticide Avitrol is used to control birds in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge near the site.
"Not only could use of this pesticide harm waterfowl in a prime feeding area for the Atlantic Flyway, but it could cause serious health problems for people if they come into contact with it," Governor Easley said about the poison safety warnings from his staff. "The reasons why the Navy should abandon this site and consider alternate sites are increasing almost daily."
In their letter to the Navy, Odom and Devlin state that an amount as small as 15 milligrams (smaller than 1/60th of a pack of artificial sweetener or a drop of rain) ingested by a child could cause "decreased mental functioning, lack of muscle coordination, respiratory distress and seizures."
"It is our understanding that the poison will be delivered in a slice of bread that contains 1,000 milligrams of Avitrol or as pellets or in grain form," the letter says.
The administration says that workers at the site dispensing the Avitrol could also be at risk of inhalation and exposure to the skin that could result in eye, skin and respiratory irritation and over stimulation of the nervous system. They also say that Avitrol carries "potential long-term environmental health consequences" and is known to be toxic to fish.
In regards to the poision proposed to be used by the Navy, Wes Seegars, chairman of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission wrote a letter to Congress earlier this month opposing the move as well.
"Under no circumstances should this chemical be used in proximity to tundra swans, snow geese or any other migratory waterfowl," said Seegars in the letter, saying that use of the chemical is actually illegal in North Carolina.
"This deadly chemical, which is mixed with the birds' food, causes them to give out distress calls, flap about, fly in erratic patterns and die," said a letter from the Governor to members of his administration.
Governor Easley says that other states will be affected as well since migratory populations come from as far away as Alaska and western Canada and many of these birds also winter in the areas surrounding the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.
Agricultural Impact At $6 Million A Year
On March 21st, NC Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sent a letter to U.S. Navy Secretary Donald Winter urging him to consider alternative sites for the proposed outlying land field in North Carolina.
The Navy's preferred site, near the border of Washington and Beaufort counties, would affect 30,000 acres of farmland, says the department.
"The project would affect 30,000 acres of farmland through acquisition and use restrictions. Eighty-nine percent of that acreage is used for production agriculture, including 17,000 acres where corn and soybeans are grown...the Navy's proposal would further reduce our state's limited supply at a time when both demand and prices are high," said Troxler in his letter to the Navy.
The NC Department of Agriculture also claims that the current OLF proposal would result in estimated agricultural losses of up to $6 million annually.
"I fully understand that the Navy needs facilities to train its pilots for the protection of the United States, but the proposed location carries too high a price to our agricultural lands and economy," concluded Troxler.
Letters To Congress And Hunters
In February, Easley sent a letter to the NC members of Congress, saying "spending millions of dollars to build the proposed OLF next to a world-renowned wildlife refuge for migratory birds is not an acceptable resolution."
He also accused the Navy of not being reasonable in looking for alternative sites.
"As the draft SEIS shows, the Navy remains unwilling to even fully consider reasonable alternatives," said Easley.
In March Easley sent a letter to North Carolina hunters through Ducks Unlimited and the National Rifle Association on March asking them to call their Congressional representatives to oppose funding for the OLF. ::