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Navy Exempted From Local Water Intake Regulation

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  • Navy Exempted From Local Water Intake Regulation

    Boston: Navy Exempted From Local Water Intake Regulation

    April 25, 2002
    Copyright © 2002 The Associated Press.
    All rights reserved.

    ó Boston U.S. District Court of Appeals confirmed that the U.S. Navyís Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Ceiba may continue to extract water from the Rio Blanco without having to comply with the requirements of the local Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.

    The Court of Appeals determined that the department secretary cannot carry out an administrative process against the Navy under the Puerto Rico Water Act because the Navy has immunity.

    The decision reinstates the Navyís argument that in this case federal legislation, known as the McCarran Amendment is not applicable. The McCarran Amendment establishes that the U.S. government renounces its right not to be sued in connection with water intake in the states.

    Civic organizations have estimated that 130,000 residents of 15 communities in Vieques, Culebra, Naguabo, Las Piedras, Humacao, and Yabucoa who obtain water from the Rio Blanco have problems with water service.

    The groups also allege that the Navy extracts more water than what they really need.

    In reaction to the decision, Naguabo Mayor Roberto Baez, Popular Democratic Party Rep. Georgie Fuentes, as well as Vieques fisherman Ismael Guadalupe, agreed that the courtís decision was an unfair one.

    Although all three defend different political ideologies, they also agreed that the decision reflects the power the Navy can have over different U.S. government agencies.

    Fuentes said the immunity claimed by the Navy "should not be applied when there are so many communities affected by this situation."

    Baez urged the Puerto Rico government and the Navy to resolve the matter through dialogue, "like good neighbors do," since legal processes can be "a waste of time."

    The mayor also requested that a reservoir be created outside of the Blanco River so that water can be stored in case of drought.

    Ismael Guadalupe, spokesman for the Pro Rescue and Development of Vieques Committee, said in a radio interview that the government should require the Navy to comply with the local laws, since they were promulgated to protect the common good.