Sunday, March 09, 2008

Blackwater ends bid for San Diego training centre

Blackwater Worldwide has withdrawn its bid to build a training centre in San Diego's East County near the small town of Potrero. (Emphasis mine)
Blackwater Worldwide dropped its plans yesterday to build a military and law enforcement training camp in East County, ending a storm of controversy over the security contractor's presence in the county. Brian Bonfiglio, a Blackwater vice president, said the decision came down to noise – gunfire tests at the 824-acre site in Potrero exceeded county standards – and not fiery opposition from residents, environmentalists and those politically opposed to Blackwater's role as a contractor guarding officials in Iraq.

“Blackwater has maintained its position from the very beginning that if we could not meet or exceed (California) and San Diego County guidelines that we would not proceed, and we are keeping to that commitment,” Bonfiglio said in a statement.

Umm... ok. Except that the noise tests didn't actually present a prohibition.

Glenn Russell, interim deputy director of the county planning department, said noise tests for the proposed rifle range exceeded county standards on the east side of the property, along federal Bureau of Land Management land.

Russell said county noise standards require an average of 50 decibels, while the gunfire noise tests were as high as 80 decibels. That would be like comparing restaurant noise with the sound of a vacuum cleaner.

Russell said county officials told Blackwater that if any residences were built on the federal land, Blackwater would be required to stop shooting at the site. He acknowledged it was unlikely houses would be built on the federal land.

“They (Blackwater) apparently weren't keen to place a condition on their project,” Russell said.

And then there is the fact that the citizens of San Diego County initiated a recall campaign and, in December 2007, turfed out five members of the county planning group who favoured Blackwater's proposed training facility and replaced them with members opposed to Blackwater's plans. There were plans to put forth a resolution against the proposed Blackwater facility at the next scheduled meeting.

John Robb has more.

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