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Pacific edition, Friday, August 31, 2007

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Yokosuka city officials said the procedure followed to approve dredging at the Yokosuka Naval Base harbor complied with the law.

In a statement submitted during Wednesday’s hearing in a lawsuit filed by Yokosuka residents seeking to halt the work, the city explained its process for giving the green light to the Japanese government project.

The job calls for dredging 600,000 cubic meters of dirt from Piedmont Pier. The case is being heard in Yokohama District Court.

The dredging is needed to accommodate the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, slated to replace the USS Kitty Hawk next year.

The plaintiffs — peace activists and residents who fish in the port for business and pleasure — claimed the city as port manager should not have agreed to dredging because it might harm the environment.

They also said they’re concerned about accident risks associated with having a nuclear-powered ship ported at Yokosuka.

City officials said samples show soil contaminants are below acceptable limits and that the Japanese government agreed to test the water daily. The work also would entail using a soil curtain to help prevent the dredged material from spreading in the water.

Further, officials contend the law does not call for the city to examine the safety of a ship’s power source after work is completed.

The next hearings are set for Oct. 10 and Oct. 29.

In a separate legal action, a group of 600 people filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government in July that also seeks suspension of the dredging. Their first hearing will be held at Yokohama District Court in Yokosuka on Sept. 3.

Naval Forces Japan command spokesman Cmdr. David Waterman said the U.S. Navy has “full confidence in the government of Japan and its contractors in carrying out every aspect of this project.”

Stars and Stripes reporter Chris Fowler contributed to this report.

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