The Relocatable Over the Horizon Radar (ROTHR) facility
on Vieques was originally installed to be used in the "War
on Drugs" and to monitor the activities of leftist insurgents
operating in Colombia and other countries of South America.
The radar station was to be placed in the western lands where
the navy in one of its few acts of conservation and stimulation
of the Vieques economy had planted a grove of mahogany trees.
The facility would include 34 transmitting towers with an average
height of about 100 feet.
Vieques protesters picketed the public hearings on the ROTHR
facility that took place at the Alcaldía. They expressed
concerns about the health risks of electromagnetic radiation,
the fact that the ROTHR complex would consume 50% of the electricity
supply of the Municipality of Vieques and the military use of
lands, which the citizens hoped would some day be used for ecologically
The ROTHR project served to unite the community with even former
staunch supporters of the navy joining in with anti navy protesters
in voicing their opposition to the installation.
"In a startling development, in July 1994, the board of
Directors of the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust (VCHT)
announced their unanimous opposition to the navy's ROTHR station.
The VCHT was the pet project of a number of wealthy North American
seasonal residents, and it claimed to focus on preserving Vieques'
environment, particularly its unique bioluminescent bay, but over
the years it had alienated itself from sympathetic Viequenses
because of its refusal to oppose the naval bombing exercises.
The VCHT maintained that speaking out against the bombing would
be an exercise in politics and that it wished to engage in environmental
preservation, not political controversy.
“In reality most VCHT members, who were often Navy League
members as well, were strongly supportive of the military presence
on Vieques and were not willing to compromise their loyalties,
even in the face of this apparent conflict of interest. Thus,
activists were surprised when the VCHT issued a strongly worded
statement declaring its unequivocal opposition to the radar station,
which aside from representing a visual blight on 'one of the loveliest
unspoiled islands of the Caribbean' and a potential health threat
to island residents, would almost certainly adversely affect the
island's environment, in particular the bioluminescent bay. For
the first time, the interests of anti navy activists and those
of a locally based North American organization had converged."
Despite the controversy the ROTHR was put into operation and
remains on navy-owned property. The mahogany trees were cleared
to make way for the construction.