WASHINGTON – The Justice Department and the U.S. Navy have reached a settlement agreement with approximately 3,400 property owners in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, Va., regarding litigation relating to jet noise at a naval air base. Under the terms of the agreement, the participating plaintiffs agree to dismiss their claims and acknowledge that the settlement does not constitute an admission of liability by the United States.
“We are pleased that the federal government and residents near the Naval Air Station Oceana and Naval Auxiliary Landing Field, Fentress have been able to reach an amicable resolution in this matter and avoid further litigation,” said Matthew J. McKeown, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This resolution signals an end to six years of litigation and provides positive results for the citizens as well as the government.”
The class-action lawsuit stems from the relocation of 156 Navy F/A-18 C/D Hornet fighter jets from Cecil Field, Fla., to Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va., between December 1998 and July 1999. Plaintiffs own approximately 2,100 properties and alleged in a group of nine lawsuits filed between April 2001 and June 2005 that the introduction of the Hornets resulted in a substantial increase in overflights and jet noise. Under the settlement, the federal government will pay the plaintiffs an amount not to exceed $34.4 million.
The first of a series of trials was scheduled to begin in October 2006, but the parties agreed to postpone trial to pursue settlement. After several months of discussions, including mediation proceedings before Judge Eric Bruggink of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the parties finalized the terms of the settlement. A large majority of the participating plaintiffs will also grant to the United States a permanent easement over their properties to accommodate existing and additional future Naval aircraft operations.