- This article from today's Washington Post reports on an underground
facility being constructed at the Naval Observatory. Albert reports
that a frenzy of construction activity has commenced at Site 4 (Fort
Reno) for clos-in communications. The new facility at Site 7 (Lamb's
Knoll) is nearing completion.
12/08/02 Washington Post
Cheney's Home Sending Bad Vibrations
Construction Blasts Have D.C. Folks Shuddering, Speculating
By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 8, 2002; Page A01
One man thought the noise was a sonic boom.
Another guessed he was hearing rolling thunder.
When a woman feared it was a bomb or an earthquake, she called the
police. But they had no answers, either.
No one in the Massachusetts Avenue Heights neighborhood of Northwest
Washington knows what is going on at the house of
their neighbor, the vice president of the United States.
But one thing is certain: They're tired of the daily blasting at the
Naval Observatory that has shaken houses, rattled windows
and knocked mirrors off the walls.
"None of the neighbors object to any construction that is necessary in
the Navy's view," said Nancy Nord, a community activist
who lives on Observatory Circle. "What we do object to is that there is
no sense of the magnitude, no warning about something
so intrusive to our lives and no clear sense how long this is going to
go or when it's going to stop."
The blasts, which last three to five seconds apiece, have been going off
two or three times a day -- as early as 7 a.m. and as
late as 11 p.m. -- for nearly two months, residents say. But neighbors
have received so little information from government
officials about the top-secret project that speculation is running wild.
The leading theory: A security bunker is being built for Vice President
Cheney. The second most-popular guess: The
government is digging tunnels to spy on nearby embassies. In third
place: A helicopter hangar is under construction.
As the government roots out terrorists around the globe and gears up for
a possible military confrontation with Iraq, nothing is
out of the realm of possibility, neighbors say.
"After 9/11, when you hear a big blast for the first time, you wonder
what is going on," said Iza Warner, who had a mirror fall
off the wall of her home on Davis Street, a few blocks away from the
construction site. Warner called the police after guests at
a dinner party became frightened by the racket.
"One guest said, 'Oh, my God, what is going on -- an earthquake?' "
Warner recalled. "She said it sounded just awful. I called
the police, and they looked around but they couldn't tell us anything."
Thus far, the federal government's only response to the residents has
been a three-page letter that the observatory's
superintendent, David W. Gillard, sent to the advisory neighborhood
commissioner, Rosalyn P. Doggett, on Nov. 20.
The blasting could last eight more months, Gillard said in the letter,
but the Navy has attempted to limit noise by silencing
backup alerts on trucks and removing most diesel-powered electric
generators from the construction site.
He did not disclose the nature of the project, however.
"Due to its sensitive nature in support of national security and
homeland defense, project specific information is classified and
cannot be released," Gillard wrote. "In addition, please understand we
are severely constrained by operation requirements to
perform this project on a highly accelerated schedule; therefore, it
will not be possible to limit construction activities to the
daytime as you request."
Doggett said the letter raised as many questions as it answered. "I got
back an information sheet that I thought was just not
pertinent," she said. "They do not have to tell us exactly what is
happening, but they do need to minimize the impact."
The matter has alarmed D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3),
who said she has asked Deputy Mayor Margaret
Nedelkoff Kellems to press White House officials to work out a
"If the federal government is not being a good neighbor, we'll elevate
the issue to a level where something can be done,"
Patterson said. "We want to know what we can know about what they're up
to and if they are able to be a bit more
The Naval Observatory, which opened at 3450 Massachusetts Ave. in 1893,
houses many of the Navy's precious instruments
used for measuring time and astronomy. The house on its grounds was
designated as the vice president's residence in 1974.
If residents' speculation is accurate and construction workers are
digging deep into the ground, the project would be going
through about 35 feet of common sand and gravel, according to federal
officials at the U.S. Geological Survey. Anything
beyond that depth would hit tonalite, an intrusive igneous rock similar
to granite and common to this area.
Phyllis Bonanno said her 89-year-old mother, who lives with her on
Observatory Circle, is "quite upset when the boom goes
"Everybody appreciates that there's always national security issues,"
Bonanno said. "On the other hand, this is a neighborhood.
We're owed the courtesy of an explanation."
To Davis Street resident Joe Rieser, the noise is "quite remarkable.
It's like thunder -- it rolls. The windows rattle. It's not
something I'm used to. I'm concerned whether there are cracks in my
Navy spokeswoman Cate Mueller described the work as "infrastructure and
utility upgrades." She said that officials are
continually monitoring the project and have not discovered any physical
damage to buildings on observatory grounds. The
vibrations from the blasts are below regulatory standards for
construction in the city, she added.
"If people came to us with damage, we would work with them on the
claim," Mueller said. "Some neighbors are concerned.
We take that seriously. We're doing what we can to make things better."
Longtime residents said they have never heard such sounds coming from
the Naval Observatory. Because they live in the
nation's capital, however, many say they are resigned to living in a
"Yeah, I'd like to know more," said Carol Hindle, who lives on Davis
Street. "But I do not trust that what I hear would be the
whole truth. This is Washington, after all."
And because it's Washington, the situation also is laced with political
"I just got back from Connecticut," said Warner. "When I mentioned this
to my nephew, he said maybe [Cheney] is drilling for
- Site 4? Site 7? What grouping of sites (formally) do these numbers refer
to, and what are 1-3, 5-6, 8-???
Looks like, as many member of this list predicted shortly post Sept. 11,
that the government was back in the bunker building business.
Add photos to your messages with MSN 8. Get 2 months FREE*.
These site numbers refer to the original Presidential Emergency
Facilities (PEF) sites. The site plans that we have dating to 1962 show
Lamb's Knoll (South Mountain, MD) as "Navy Site #7." Site #4 is
adjacent to Reno Reservoir in DC. Albert LaFrance probably is the best
authority on the chain and, hopefully, he'll read this and respond.
"Rick C." wrote:
> Site 4? Site 7? What grouping of sites (formally) do these numbers[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
> to, and what are 1-3, 5-6, 8-???
> Looks like, as many member of this list predicted shortly post Sept.
> that the government was back in the bunker building business.
> Add photos to your messages with MSN 8. Get 2 months FREE*.
> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.
I was playing a little dumb there - should have been more specific in
what I meant. I was wondering if anybody had a complete list of the site
numbers and their associated names. I recall Cannonball is #2, and Lamb's
Knoll, but I was not aware of Ft. Reno.
>These site numbers refer to the original Presidential Emergency_________________________________________________________________
>Facilities (PEF) sites. The site plans that we have dating to 1962 show
>Lamb's Knoll (South Mountain, MD) as "Navy Site #7." Site #4 is
>adjacent to Reno Reservoir in DC. Albert LaFrance probably is the best
>authority on the chain and, hopefully, he'll read this and respond.
>"Rick C." wrote:
The new MSN 8: smart spam protection and 2 months FREE*
- Group, Another article about new facility.
Neighbors Complain of Cheney Home Blasts
Mon Dec 9, 9:54 AM ET Strange News - AP to My Yahoo!
By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Neighbors of Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web
sites) are being shaken and rattled at least once a day by mysterious
blasts at the U.S. Naval Observatory where Cheney lives.
The Navy says the explosions are part of a construction project that
has been going on for several months now, but won't say more because
the project is classified.
Navy spokeswoman Cate Mueller described the work as
an "infrastructure improvement, a utility upgrade."
She said they have tried to reassure the neighborhood, which includes
the Washington residence of former President Bill and Sen. Hillary
Clinton (news - web sites), that the blasts will not damage their
homes. She said most understand that, because of national security
concerns, they can't reveal details or confine the construction to a
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule.
Joseph Rieser, who lives a half-block off Observatory Circle, said
each blast was "almost like thunder because it rolls and it lasts a
noticeable period, probably several seconds." It said the explosions
rattle windows that aren't shut tight.
He said his concern was that neighbors received no forewarning of the
project. "If this were a normal construction contract I would expect
that they would have told the neighbors."
Mueller acknowledged that they were "not as aggressive up front in
warning" neighbors about the project.
She said the construction is expected to last another eight months,
and for the time being there will be one or two blasts a day, each
lasting about three to five seconds.
The blasts were being carefully monitored to assure they were well
under acceptable vibration standards so there would be no damage to
either nearby residences or to facilities at the observatory, she
The Naval Observatory moved to its present location on Massachusetts
Ave. in Northwest Washington in 1893. The vice president took up
residence on the site in 1974. It houses the master clock of the
United States and telescopes dating back to a time when it was one of
the premier astronomical observatories in the world.
The Washington Post, which reported the issue Sunday, said David
Gillard, the observatory's superintendent, had sent the local
neighborhood commission a letter noting that "due to its sensitive
nature in support of national security and homeland defense, project
specific information is classified and cannot be released."
Jennifer Millerwise, a spokeswoman for the vice president, referred
questions about the project to the Navy.
On the Net: Vice president's residence:
U.S. Naval Observatory: http://www.usno.navy.mil/