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Pacific edition, Thursday, July 5, 2007

More than 640 people in the Yokosuka area have signed on as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Japanese government to stop a dredging project at Yokosuka Naval Base’s harbor.

The lawsuit in Yokohama District Court claims the dredging of 600,000 cubic meters of dirt from Piedmont Pier will cause environmental damage, according to the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Masahiko Goto.

The group also wants to stop the dredging to prevent an incoming nuclear-powered aircraft carrier from being based at Yokosuka, saying the ship could pose health risks if there was an accident, Goto said.

Dredging is needed to house the USS George Washington, slated to replace the USS Kitty Hawk next year.

Dredging is expected to start this month, according to a Defense Facilities Administration Agency spokesman. He declined to comment on the lawsuit since the agency has not received the complaint.

In a separate lawsuit filed last month, 10 Yokosuka residents are seeking the withdrawal of Yokosuka city’s acceptance of the Japanese government’s dredging project.

Jon Nylander, Commander, Naval Forces Japan spokesman, said the matter is between the plaintiffs and the Japanese government.

“The Navy is not a party to the lawsuit, so it’s not our place to make a statement.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Allison Batdorff contributed to this report.

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Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.
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