by Dr. James Porter, text by Julia Reynolds
few years ago, the government of Puerto Rico wanted to find
out what effect the U.S. Navys presence had on the underwater
environment around the island of Vieques. So they hired Dr. James
Porter, a Yale-trained expert on coral reefs, to study the sea bed
around Bahía Salina del Sur and Roca Alcatraz, just offshore
from the Navys airfield in Vieques.
and his team of scientists from the University of Georgia were shocked
by what they found.
floor was littered with an array of Navy junk, some of it under
just fifteen feet of water. The team found unexploded live ordnance,
2000-pound bombs, artillery shells, compressed-gas cylinders and
bombs leaking toxic material onto the delicate coral reefs.
also found a mysterious, sunken barge of barrels. Dr.
Porter says this broken-down, shipwrecked hull contains fifty-five
gallon drums too numerous to count, but he estimates
there are at least 900 to 1,000 of them contents unknown.
about Puerto Rico's alleged "gag order" on Dr. Porter
and view never-before-published photos of the underwater wasteland,
in El Andar Summer 2001.
Navy, the Island and the Deal by
Vieques is a little
island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, the Isla
Nena to the main islands Isla Grande. By
all accounts it is ravishingly beautiful. There are palm trees,
white sand beaches, stunning coral reefs, and three of the worlds
seven bioluminescent bays, lit up at night by tiny phosphorescent
And though its
only six miles from the Isla Grande, it has never been developed.
No hotel chains, no fast food, no strip malls. In fact, most of
it isnt even populated.
Why? Because for the
past sixty years, Vieques has been a training-ground for the Atlantic
Fleet. Its the Navys only combined-assault
live-fire target range, involving subs, boats, Marines and planes,
in whole or parts. When the Navys not using it, they rent
it out to foreign navies.
The Vieques ranges are
part of Roosevelt Roads, one of the largest Navy bases in the world,
which is just across the bay on mainland Puerto Rico. And Vieques
is its dumping ground, where it cooks off unwanted
and highly toxic ammunition in open pits, exposed to land,
sea, air, and the local residents.
Talk about heaven and
hell in the same place.
To be continued...
about why the Navy isn't planning to leave Vieques by 2003.
the behind-the scenes deal between Clinton, Puerto Rico's Governor
Rosselló and the Navy, in El Andar Summer 2001.