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Whats Going To Happen To Roosevelt Roads?
Congressional actions indicate a done deal; closure and redevelopment expected within six months
By JOHN COLLINS
September 25, 2003
The joint Senate-House Defense Appropriations Conference Committee has agreed on an accelerated timetable for the closure of U.S. Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, said Jeffrey Farrow from Washington.
"This is a done deal," said Farrow, former co-chairman of the White House Puerto Rico Interagency Task Force in the Clinton administration. "All indications from both sides of the aisles in the House and Senate are that the agreement in Conference Committee will be approved in the House next week and in the Senate the following week. After those hurdles are cleared, the measure would be ready for the signature of President George W. Bush."
A key element in the bill is the allocation of 150 acres for U.S. Army Reserve training. The rest of the land would be up for grabs under the monitor of the secretary of the Navy, said Farrow.
The bill calls for the creation of a Puerto Rico Roosevelt Roads Redevelopment Authority, the membership of which is to be approved by the secretary of the Navy. It will include, however, commonwealth government officials, among them the mayor of Ceiba. The authority will be charged with drafting a plan within 180 days for the diversification of Roosevelt Roads, which also must be approved by the Navy secretary, and with making recommendations on how the changes can be accomplished.
"So, we could be talking about an April 1, 2004 target date for implementation if all goes well," said Farrow.
The draft language provides for Base Realignment & Closure (BRAC) funds to be allocated for the implementation of the plans. The proceeds from the public sale of any surplus property must be deposited in that fund.
Farrow praised the role of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), who brokered the measure, for the "hands-on manner in which the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee [Lewis] hammered out the plan." Also present on Capitol Hill during the discussions was Republican resident commissioner candidate Luis Fortuño, among others from Puerto Rico.
Farrow said Fortuño received from Lewis a copy of the draft bill before PDP gubernatorial candidate Anibal Acevedo Vila, "who was embroiled in local politics in Puerto Rico rather than being involved in one of the most crucial bills dealing with Puerto Rico that Congress has ever considered."
The movement on the measure was so swift, said Farrow, that Acevedo Vila, with whom Lewis was in touch, "tried by remote control from Puerto Rico to delay it but was unsuccessful." There were reports that Acevedo Vila wanted to hold out and get Roosevelt Roads included in the next round of base closures in 2005, but both Navy officials and Congressional figures opposed any further delay.
Farrow noted the secretary of the Navy has six months to approve or disapprove the recommendations of the authority. He said, "The worst-case scenario would be that it would go back to Congress, which would have to reopen the affair." If the plan isnt approved, the secretary must come up with a plan of his own. "Those involved dont expect that to happen," said Farrow. "Most people in Washington just want to get over this and move on."
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.