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Plans For Roosevelt Roads Don’t Measure Up, Say Environmentalists

Objections raised to proposed residential area, hotel, and marina


April 22, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

The Department of Economic Development & Commerce’s (EDC) plans for former Naval Station Roosevelt Roads include the preservation of mangroves and the creation of protected areas for recreational use, but environmental groups say not enough attention is being paid to environmental concerns or the interests of the Ceiba community.

Of the 8,000 acres, 1,250 acres of mangroves would be set aside for preservation, and another 3,000 acres inland would be preserved for recreational use.

Environmental groups, however, said the agency has released too little information concerning plans for the land. Moreover, what information has been released contains elements that are environmentally objectionable.

Initially, the EDC forwarded a proposal that included developing a 1,200-acre science park and a 500-acre coastal residential area that would also include businesses, restaurants, hotels, and a marina.

Sarah Peisch of environmental group Environmental Action Center said no development should be considered until a coherent plan has been drafted. "It shouldn’t be a simple crapshoot deciding who gets what services and who gets what facilities. Nothing should happen until an integrated development plan is drawn up," she said.

EDC spokeswoman Sandra Pomales said the plans for the residential area, hotel, marina and science park are all preliminary proposals, subject to change following the public hearings currently underway. EDC Executive Director Milton Segarra couldn’t be reached for comment.

Rogelio Figueroa of the aspiring environmental political party Puerto Rico for Puerto Ricans said the plans don’t match the needs of the community. "The plans are unconnected with the realities of the people of Ceiba, Naguabo, Culebra, and Vieques," he said.

Figueroa said his group is opposed to any development not within areas already developed at the former naval station. "Why do we need high-cost residences...that people in the community can’t afford and a marina that they can’t use," he said.

According to the Department of Natural & Environmental Resources, Roosevelt Roads is of great ecological value. The 363-hectare Ceiba State Forest borders the former naval base.

The waters off Roosevelt Roads have the most manatees in Puerto Rico’s territorial waters. They also contain the largest population of sea grass in Puerto Rico.

A large variety of endangered bird life thrives in the area, including the brown pelican, the red-billed duck, and the white-headed dove. Unique sea life includes the black sea urchin; oysters; sea turtles, which lay eggs on Rosy Roads’ beaches; and a coral reef in excellent condition.

According to Peisch, the Navy will have a lot to clean up on its former base. "There are dozens of contaminated sites," she said. The EDC reported that the Navy had produced the "First Report on Environmental Conditions of the Property" last week, as part of its legal obligation under the base-closure process.

The agency said that of 94 areas of environmental impact, 53 are clean. Of the remaining 41 areas, 18 require cleanup and another 23 require additional study to determine the need for remediation. According to the Navy’s report, the area of development, the housing areas, the waterfront, and the base’s commercial area are clean.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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