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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
SALINAS RIVER NWR: Summary of Salinas River NWR UXO and Cemex Dredger Incidents 
Region 8, January 11, 2008
Heavy surf from strong January storms uncovered World War Two-era ordnance at Salinas NWR. (USFWS Photo)
Heavy surf from strong January storms uncovered World War Two-era ordnance at Salinas NWR. (USFWS Photo) - Photo Credit: n/a

Heavy surf and beach erosion caused by winter storms January 4-5 unearthed dozens of unexploded World War II – era mortar shells on the Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge.  The unexploded ordnance (UXO) was discovered Monday, Jan.7 on a beach area of the refuge which is normally open to the public for fishing and birding.

The Monterey County Sheriff Department was contacted, and a bomb squad was dispatched to inspect and cordon off the site.  Refuge law enforcement staff remained on-site overnight to secure the area. Refuge personnel also worked to contact and coordinate with local, state, private and federal partners.

On Tuesday, Jan. 8, an explosive ordnance disposal team (EOD) from Travis Air Force Base identified the UXO as inert practice rounds and destroyed them in-place with explosive charges. Approximately 250 pieces were recovered and disposed of.  Refuge personnel were on location throughout the event to close the refuge for public safety, consult with all parties, and to ensure protection of trust resources in the area, including the federally-threatened western snowy plover.

An additional ~40 pieces of UXO were uncovered by surf Jan. 9 in the same location. The EOD was contacted.  Based upon the inert practice round findings from the previous day, it was determined that, so long as routine precautions were taken, the newly exposed UXO did not pose a significant threat. 

The Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) began a more comprehensive assessment of the area Jan. 9.   From historical records, the Corps was aware that a target practice site had existed on the refuge, but had never been able to locate it due to the accumulation of several decades of sand.  The Corps also confirmed the EOD findings that the UXO were inert practice rounds through the historical records and inspection of the UXO. 

Refuge personnel will work with the Corps to schedule a clean up of the site before the plover breeding season and increased summer public usage of the refuge.

Concurrent with discovery of UXO, a sand dredger from a neighboring sand mining company (Cemex) was reported to be beached on the Refuge 100 meters north of the UXO site. The dredger had been swept out to sea the prior weekend by a storm and was anchored to the refuge shore by Cemex to secure it from the tides.

Safe off-loading of the dredger’s diesel fuel (1400 gallons) by a salvaging company was approved by USFWS only after safety concerns had been allayed by Monterey County Sheriff Department bomb squad on Jan. 7.  No contamination of the site was evident.  Arrangements for towing of the dredger back to the Cemex location were cleared by the Air Force EOD upon completion of the initial UXO disposal on Jan. 8.. 

Refuge personnel were on-site throughout the salvaging process to ensure that the activities did not impact the plover and beach habitat. Refuge personnel also continued to notify and update all state and federal agencies with jurisdiction in the salvaging operation of daily events.  After an unsuccessful attempt on Jan. 9, Cemex was successful in recovering the dredger back to their property on Jan.10.

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov