Navy To Resume Training Exercises June 24 On Vieques
Plans Biggest Vieques Tests Since Training Suspended
Refuses Comment On Future Vieques Exercises
Navy To Resume Training Exercises June 24 On Vieques
June 21, 2000
San Juan - The U.S. Navy announced Wednesday that it plans to resume controversial military training exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques as of June 24.
"The exercises consist of up to five ships shooting at the firing ranges. Up to 600 rounds will be fired over a two- to six-day period," the Navy said in statements published in Wednesday's EL Nuevo Dia newspaper.
The exercises, carried out by the crews of the USS George Washington Battle Group, include a ship-to-shore shelling using 600 inert rounds aimed at the eastern extreme of the Vieques firing ranges, while aircraft drop 400 25-pound dummy bombs and 120 500- and 1,000-pound practice bombs on the range.
Another 30 50-pound dummy bombs will be laser guided.
Navy seamen will also engage in ship-to-air firing exercises from the decks of the five-ship fleet.
The Navy, which maintains it does not need a declaration of environmental impact to go forward with the training maneuvers, said the firing exercises will not be held simultaneously and will not include marine or amphibious landings or artillery operations.
Possible effects to the environment have been analyzed and documented in the Declaration of Environmental Impact, crafted in 1980, said the Navy, which added that inert rounds and dummy bombs will have no significant impact on humans or the environment.
Navy Plans Biggest Vieques Tests Since Training Suspended
June 20, 2000
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- The Navy this week plans to stage its largest bombing tests on Vieques island since exercises were suspended last year after a fatal accident, according to documents released Monday by Puerto Rico 's Planning Board.
Five ships from the George Washington Battle Group will fire as many as 600 dummy rounds onto the Navy range starting Wednesday, according to a letter written by Rear Adm. J.K. Moran and Navy documents, which the Planning Board distributed.
Aircraft will drop from 550 to 830 dummy bombs, including 120 500-pound and 1,000-pound bombs, during the exercise, which could last two to five days.
Navy officials were surprised by the board's release of the documents and refused to comment on Vieques operations.
Under a 1983 accord, the Navy provides Puerto Rico 's State Department at least 15 days' notice before Vieques bombing.
Puerto Rico 's government cannot publicize the Navy notifications. It wasn't immediately clear why the Planning Board would have been notified.
Puerto Rican Secretary of State Angel Morey told Associated Press he knew nothing about the documents and would investigate.
Board officials did not immediately return telephone calls.
Moran's letter to the Planning Board letter certified that the training won't have a significant impact on endangered species or Vieques coastal waters.
The Navy frequently announced many of its live-fire activities on Vieques until two stray bombs killed a civilian security guard on the range in April 1999. The accident unleashed a frenzy of anti-Navy protest.
Dozens of protesters occupied the range until May, when federal officials evicted them.
Days later, Navy aircraft bombed the range and a warship shelled it using dummy munitions, as is now required under an executive order by President Clinton.
Navy Refuses Comment On Vieques Exercises
June 19, 2000
By JAMES ANDERSON
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - The U.S. Navy will no longer publicly discuss planned war games on Vieques island, a spokesman said Monday, after a memo surfaced announcing plans for more maneuvers this week.
Navy officials said they will continue routine operations on the island within presidential guidelines and that they are under no obligation to announce them to the public in advance.
"I have nothing to release about future operations, and we will not discuss future operations" on Vieques island, said Lt. Jeff Gordon, spokesman for Rear Admiral Kevin P. Green, chief of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command.
Green was reacting to an alleged Puerto Rico Planning Board request for public comment on a Navy proposal to conduct exercises this week. Copies of the purported June 14 memo surfaced Sunday.
Navy officials were surprised by the document, saying they deal directly with Puerto Rico 's state department, not the planning board, in giving at least 15 days' notice before Vieques training. Secretary of State Angel Morey told The Associated Press he knew nothing about the memo and would investigate. Board officials didn't immediately return telephone calls for comment.
Under a 1983 accord, Puerto Rico 's government cannot publicize Navy notifications of Vieques bombing.
Yet the Navy frequently announced many of its live-fire activities on Vieques until two stray bombs killed a civilian security guard on the range in April 1999. The accident unleashed a frenzy of anti-Navy protest.
Dozens of protesters occupied the range and stayed there until May, when federal officials evicted them. Days later, Navy aircraft bombed the range and a warship shelled it using inert "dummy" munitions, as is now required under an executive order by President Clinton.
Clinton's directive also calls for the Navy to abandon Vieques by May 2003 if the island's 9,400 residents vote to expel it in a referendum expected next year. If the Navy wins, it gets to use live munitions again.
The Navy insists Vieques is the only place its Atlantic battle groups can hold simultaneous land, air and sea exercises using live fire before deploying abroad. That training has saved countless lives since World War II, the Navy says.
Vieques islanders blame decades of bombing for a high cancer rate, environmental damage and stunted tourism. Puerto Rican political and religious leaders embraced their cause, though Rossello stopped declaring "Not one more bomb!" after he negotiated a compromise that led to Clinton's directive, believing that residents will oust the Navy.
Protesters still sneak onto the range; 56 were arrested Saturday. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., meanwhile, was barred on Sunday from collecting range soil samples for a lawsuit his Natural Resources Defense Council plans against the Navy.