AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander yesterday criticized a proposal to blast South Texas with the same bombs now being dropped on the Vieques Island training site in Puerto Rico.
Rylander, the first statewide elected official to speak out against the fledgling idea, also ordered an economic impact study and said she would make an aerial tour of the region in coming days.
"Bombing Texas beaches doesn't make much sense, period." Rylander said. "This is not the place to play war games."
Economic development officials in Kenedy County, just south of Corpus Christi, have acknowledged that they had been quietly promoting a 222,000-acre site near Baffin Bay. The proposal would include amphibious military landings on the Padre Island National Seashore, considered a state and national treasure.
Word first leaked out when the Washington Times reported that the South Texas site was being considered by the Bush administration as an alternative to Vieques, where the controversial exercises will end after 2003.
Environmentalists in South Texas were quick to slam the proposal. They cited, among other things, the danger to a fragile ecosystem that supports the endangered Kemp's Ridley turtles.
On Monday, commissioners in Kenedy County joined in with a unanimous vote condemning the idea.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has called the idea "an interesting concept" but says it's premature to take a position one way or the other.
"He has no indication from federal officials that South Texas is under serious consideration. If it turns out that it is, he thinks careful analysis of long-term and short-term impacts must be done and that the public needs the opportunity for full debate," Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said. "Without knowing full information, he would withhold judgment."
Rylander said she wants to look at the "cold, hard numbers" that flow from her study of the economic impact the project might have.
Some local officials have touted the proposal as a potential boon to the economy.
"While there may be some economic benefits in turning South Texas into a war zone, we must look at the impact on our environment and our quality of life," Rylander said.
She said she expects to have the study completed in two to three weeks.
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