A legislative effort is under way in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to reclaim Desecheo Island (KP5) and to include it within the municipality of Mayagüez. According to a report in El Nuevo Día, the Puerto Rico House of Representatives of Puerto Rico approved two bills on October 26 that call on the US government to return ownership of Desecheo Island to Puerto Rico.
The island was the site of the KP1-5 Project’s K5D DXpedition in early 2009 that logged nearly 116,000 contacts. KP5 was added to the ARRL DXCC list in 1979 under the “separate administration” rule. While this was subsequently removed, Desecheo and other entities were grandfathered.
Desecheo currently is under the administration of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) within the US Department of the Interior. It is about 16 miles west of Puerto Rico, in the Mona Channel between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The legislative effort is headed by Popular Democratic Party Rep Charlie Hernández, who would like to see Desecheo become a tourist attraction. The legislation now heads to the Senate in Puerto Rico.
One of the House bills approved would repeal the legislation authorizing transfer of Desecheo to the US government for defense purposes during World War II and was used as a bombing and gunnery range until 1952. A second bill would alter the territorial limits of Mayagüez to add the nearly 5 square mile Desecheo.
“This refuge is close due to the presence of unexploded military ordnance, the USFWS says on its Desecheo Island web page, which also says that travel to the small island is “not applicable.” Desecheo became a US Wildlife Refuge in 1976. Currently Amateur Radio groups wishing to operate from Desecheo Island, a separate DXCC entity, must first obtain permission from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. In the wake of the 2009 DXpedition to the island, Desecheo dropped from the top 10 to number 43 on ClubLog’s DXCC Most Wanted List.