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Local News

San Miguel Island May Reopen in Fall After Old Military Ordnance Removed from Trails, High-Use Areas

About 125 pounds of munitions have been removed from San Miguel Island since last year, including bomb fragments, fuses and shards, many of which were located “just under the surface of the most highly used trails,” according to U.S. Navy officials.

The Navy said the 9,500-acre island — part of Channel Islands National Park — could reopen to the public as early as this fall. The Navy shut down public access last April after it was feared undetonated explosives were present.

Located about 26 miles south of Point Conception and three miles west of Santa Rosa Island, San Miguel Island was used as a bombing range decades ago.

“Although no highly explosive items were found in the limited search, the items found do indicate the island and offshore areas were targeted with both explosive and practice munitions,” according to a Navy statement issued last week.

Military officials announced that an initial risk assessment had been done on the island and that the Navy would begin working with the National Park Service on a plan to reopen the park.

The Navy hired a firm to perform a survey of surface and subsurface unexploded ordnance along the 18 miles of marked trails and in nine identified high-use areas, including the ranger station and camping areas.

“Unexploded ordnance may still exist anywhere on the island, where soft sand and dense vegetation may hide its presence,” the statement said, adding that the survey covered less than 1 percent of the total area of the 14-mile-square island.

Some areas that were thought to be previously cleared still had ordnance present.

“Public safety is our No. 1 concern,” said Capt. Larry Vasquez, commanding officer of Naval Base Ventura County.

“Closing the island to the public was a difficult decision, but these results show it was the right decision.”

The statement said that reopening the island to public access is contingent upon safety measures and the implementation of land-use controls and agreements, but limited access should be restored by the fall.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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