Local News

Military cleaning up old bombing range

Posted March 13, 2009 4:37 p.m. EDT
Updated March 13, 2009 7:16 p.m. EDT

— Just off the Emerald Isle coast, Wood Island is a quiet tranquil spot, no bigger than a football field, that serves as an unofficial sanctuary for many birds and sea turtles.

To humans, however, it is off limits.

Nearly 60 years ago, the U.S. Marines used the island as a bombing range. Signs now warn boaters that old, unexploded bombs could remain on or around the island.

"The stuff can remain dangerous for a very, very, very long time," said Dale McFarland with Cherry Point Environmental Affairs.

McFarland says the military is now working on a thorough cleaning of its old bombing ranges and that Wood Island is one of the first on the list because of the high explosive ordinance and its proximity to Emerald Isle.

Any old devices discovered will be removed by explosive experts.

The initial project, which will cost about $1 million, involves specialized aircraft that flies over land and water searching for leftover bombs and military debris. Other equipment measures magnetic fields, creating a digital map of any hidden metallic objects.

The military removed some material from the island in the 1940s and 1950s, but without the kind of technology that allows it to find buried bombs.

Town leaders say they are following the project closely.

"You know, fortunately we haven't had any issues, or bad things happen down there, in the last 40 to 50 years," said Emerald Isle Town Manager Frank Rush. "But I think its good they're looking into it."