From World War II until 1975 the Navy used the island of Culebra for weapons training. Culebra, also off the eastern end of Puerto Rico, is north of Vieques. In the late 1960s increased air-to-ground and naval surface fire on Culebra resulted in protests and widespread calls for the Navy to discontinue training in and around Culebra. In 1970, section 611 of Public Law 91-511 directed the Secretary of Defense to conduct a study and prepare a report on weapons training around Culebra. Secretary of Defense Laird submitted the report to the President and the Armed Services Committees on April 1, 1971. The report included a statement that the Secretary would review the Culebra situation by the end of 1972 in order to make a final decision as to where to relocate the naval training target areas that were then on Culebra.
Following the unscheduled discharge of mortar fire that landed on a Culebra beach where children were playing, all political parties in Puerto Rico called for the Navy to cease operations and leave the island. In June 1974, the President decided that weapons training activities on Culebra should be terminated by July 1, 1975.
The transfer of Navy training activities from Culebra to Vieques in the 1970s generated significant controversy, including organized protests. As a result, on October 5, 1978, the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) appointed a full committee panel to review the status of, and future requirements for, Navy training activities on Vieques. Initial review of the issue was concentrated at committee staff level. On December 3, 1979 a full committee panel was reappointed with a focus on the requirements for the training facilities, Puerto Rico's perspective on the Navy's presence on Vieques and the exploration of alternatives, if any, to the naval training.
This site is about 25 miles east of Puerto Rico's main island. It includes all of Culebra Island, about 20 nearby keys, and all the surrounding water. Total area is 92,500 acres; 7300 acres of land and 85,000 acres of water. Most of the property is not part of the National Wildlife Refuge. The site includes steep hills with dense vegetation, rugged barren keys, sandy beaches, lagoons, and clear ocean water. There is very little open or level terrain. The areas with confirmed OEW are primarily the keys and water, though there are also some confirmed areas on Culebra Island.
Spain ceded all of Puerto Rico to the United States in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American War, and in 1901 President Roosevelt placed all of Culebra's public lands under Navy control. The navy built a small permanent camp around 1902, and the Caribbean Fleet used the area for naval exercises numerous times before and after WWI. The Marines used Culebra for training from 1903 until 1941. The Navy used Culebra as a bombing and gunnery range from 1935 until 1975. Except for an 87 acre parcel of the abandoned OP, all former Navy property has been transferred.
A new contract with Ellis Environmental of Gainesville, Florida was issued on 31 March 2000 to perform unexploded ordnance removals lands the DNER wants to construct a wind generator on. There is an option to clear an additional 100 acres at the western tip of the island where Fish and Wildlife personnel monitor migratory bird nesting.
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