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USACE seeks unexploded ordnances, munitions

MONMOUTH — Property owners in Monmouth have been getting requests from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to access their property in search of unexploded ordnances and munitions.

The site is part of a formerly used defense site for Camp Adair, near Corvallis.

“It’s kind of an interesting story,” said Scott McClure, Monmouth city manager. “When they had Camp Adair (during World War II), they’d drop bombs. Apparently people have just found ordnances, so they said let’s go ahead and do a complete survey and try and find everything that’s out there.”

Kurt Baer, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City, Mo., said money for this project and others like it was authorized by Congress in 2002.

A 2007 investigation of the Monmouth area found that the property had historic munitions finds.

“The munitions we’re looking for now have a higher risk to cause human health and environmental concerns, so this project got a priority and funding,” Baer said.

He added that he isn’t aware of imminent danger to property owners.

“We have a history that high explosives were used at this site,” he said. “We have some history documentations that munitions have been found in the past.”

Out of 338 requests for access, 108 landowners have responded with permission so far, Baer said.

The procedure for searching for munitions can be complex, as Baer said the USACE doesn’t want to be a burden on property owners.

“We’ll contact the property owner and ask them when’s a good time to come out,” he said. “There’s a lot of farming there. When’s the dormant season? When (are we) not going to bother them too much?”

The USACE personnel will then take an all-terrain vehicle on the property with a ground-penetrating radar looking for metal debris.

“We’ll look at it and see if it’s munitions debris or not,” Baer said. “We’ll take the data, go back and analyze it. We’re looking for clusters of subsurface anomalies.”

Once the data has been analyzed, Baer said personnel will dig up a few items in the fields of metal debris.

“Sometimes it’s an old farmstead; sometimes it’s an old tractor,” Baer said. “We’re just trying to determine there’s no munitions.”

The search hasn’t officially started while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is seeking permission from landowners, but Baer said he has already gotten reports of munitions in the area.

“Some people have called me and sent me pictures of things they have, usually on their fireplace mantel,” he said.

For more information, property owners should contact: kurt.h.baer@usace.army.mil.

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