Murphy's Law: May 9, 2003

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Bowing to political pressure, the Vieques bombing range in Puerto Rico was closed earlier this month. While there are bombing and artillery ranges all over the United States, this was the first time shutting one down because a popular political cause. Eventually the politicians caved. But it turns out there will be consequences. The nearby Roosevelt Roads naval base serves mainly to support ships using the Vieques bombing range. The base is being closed. The base provided 1200 local civilians with jobs, as well as 700 military personnel. The base put $300 million a year into the local economy. The jobs, and the navy ships and aircraft, are moving north to Florida, where an existing bombing range will be used. The weather conditions are not as placid in Florida as in Puerto Rico, meaning there will be more training delays for bad weather, and the waters off Florida are more crowded, meaning more expense to keep areas clear when the warships and warplanes are exercising. The governor of Puerto Rico complained about the loss of the jobs, but he and his fellow Puerto Rican politicians never got behind the navy with support to keep Vieques open, and apparently missed the fact that Roosevelt Roads would close as a result. Moreover, the activists who wanted Vieques closed thought that the bombing range would be cleaned up (unexploded bombs removed) so the area could be bought by developers and tourist facilities built. But cleaning up the old bombs is too expensive, and the Vieques range is being turned over to the Department of the Interior for use as a wildlife refuge. The fence around the range will warn people to keep out, because of hundreds (no one knows exactly how many) unexploded bombs and shells in there. Agitating to get Congress to appropriate billions to clean up the Vieques site is likely to fail, there being so many other more worthy things to do with the money.

 


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