2000 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: Fri, 12 May 2000 11:59:20 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] The West Vieques Transfer: Do It Right

The legislation designed to implement the President's directive on
Vieques should be revised or perhaps even dropped. The transfer of the
Naval Ammunition Depot on the western portion of the island should be
done RIGHT rather than SOON. Based upon the experience of base closures
across the United States, it's clear that hurried transfer will not
improve the prospects for either redevelopment or preservation.
Furthermore, it will set a dangerous precedent for the anticipated
transfer of the training range on the eastern half of Vieques, where
more extensive hazards have already been identified.

The conversion of Vieques should draw upon the lessons of other base
closures and transfers. Transfer should be based upon a deliberate
process - with extensive public participation - designed to protect
public health, maximize local benefit, and preserve both ecologically
and historically significant resources. Existing legislation provides a
positive basis for achieving such goals. That is, the Executive Branch
already has the tools to convert the Navy base to civilian use.

* The Navy should close the Naval Ammunition Depot by December 31, 2000
or sooner, halting all activities related to the military mission and
removing all munitions as soon as possible. That is, closure should
proceed as soon as possible, BEFORE transfer.

* Actual transfer of the property, either to the state of Puerto Rico -
or with Puerto Rican assent, portions to the Department of Interior -
should take place as legal under Surplus Property Disposal Act, the
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and Section 120 (the federal
facilities provisions) of the Superfund law (CERCLA, the Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act). That is,
transfer legislation should not waive statutory environmental

Each step in the transfer process should provide an opportunity for
public input. NEPA should be used to identify all environmental
requirements. CERCLA should be followed to ensure that remedies are in
place before transfer. The extent of contamination should be known
before state and local governments are asked to take over management of
the property.

* The Navy should establish a separate Restoration Advisory Board to
seek local advice on the characterization, cleanup, and clearance of its
Vieques facilities. It's quite likely that new environmental restoration
tasks will be identified simply because the property is being prepared
for transfer and public use. Those should be carried out in partnership
with the local community, and community relations activities serving the
Roosevelt Roads facility do not fully serve public stakeholders on

* The Navy/Defense Department should make the property available for
priority uses under lease or other use agreements, as soon as possible.
These uses should included direct transportation routes from the Puerto
Rican mainland. Such arrangements are the standard at closing bases.
Full deed transfer usually proves most useful in garnering investments
for major developments, but it is not clear when - and even if - such
development are likely on Vieques.

* Regardless of the future of the training range on the eastern portion
of Vieques, the Defense Department's Office of Economic Adjustment
should immediately make funds available, for planning and legal advice,
to a locally controlled entity with authority over all property on
Vieques being transferred to non-federal ownership. Local planning, with
full public disclosure and participation, is necessary to ensure that
the community benefits from the transfer. Independent legal
representation is essential to ensure public use without exposing local
entities to inappropriate financial liability.

The Clinton Administration should commit to these obligations under
existing legislation. Special legislation should be written for Vieques
only if these objectives cannot be achieved under current law. Congress
should not leave the design of any Vieques transfer legislation to the
armed services committees alone, and it should hold hearings - in Puerto
Rico - on such laws before taking any action.

Lenny Siegel


Lenny Siegel
Executive Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
c/o PSC, 222B View St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/968-1126

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