Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wildlife refuge closed for bomb hunt

Officials checking for unexploded ordnance

As reported in the Daily Advance by JOHN HENDERSON, Staff Writer, about the Army Core of Engineers combing the Refuge:

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Currituck National Wildlife Refuge has expanded an area closed to the public as officials hunt for potential explosives from an old Navy bombing range.

The area includes the Monkey Island tract of the federal refuge north of Corolla.

The Currituck National Wildlife Refuge has closed an area of the refuge (shown in red) as officials hunt for possible explosives from an old Navy bombing range.

A contracting firm has been hired to look for unexploded ordnance, and officials aren't sure what, if anything, will be found.

"It's very old," Mike Bryant, the project leader for the refuge, said of the refuge area where the contractor will be checking for ordnance. "I'm not sure if it was from World War II or later. But the Army Corps of Engineers has the responsibility for investigating and cleaning up sites. They have issued a contract to do some of that work on that land."

Bryant said the public is prohibited from driving through the area right now, and he hopes that people who see the contractors' vehicles driving up to that area to look for explosives don't follow them.

Expanding the closed area "is for the safety of the public," Bryant said. "There could be everything from fifty-caliber bullets in the sand, to small practice bombs. The stuff was dropped, who knows how many years ago, long before refuge was established in the '80s. We were simply made aware that part of this refuge had been part of this old gunner bombing range."

The expanded closed area of the refuge will now start 1 mile north of Corolla, and continue north approximately 750 yards. The area, from the leading edge of the primary dune westward to the Currituck Sound, will remain closed to the public until further notice, according to a press release.

The vehicle access portion on the beach will be unaffected by the closure, but motorists need to use caution as surveyors with equipment may be present on the beach after the project starts Monday, the release states.