An island off the Southern California coast could be closed for a year as the U.S. Navy investigates whether unexploded bombs remain on the the island.
The island, owned by the U.S. Department of Defense, has been closed to the public since April.
The last record of unexploded ordnance found on the island was in the 1980s, but recent discoveries of metal objects in public areas were a concern, Kimberly Gearhart, a spokeswoman for Naval Base Ventura County.
"We don’t know exactly what things were done over there and we don’t know what was cleaned up," Gearhart said. "The responsible thing to do is to asses the risk before we let the public enjoy the island."
San Miguel was in an active bomb testing range from World War II through to the 1970s, and officials are concerned that unexploded ordnance still remains on some parts of the island.
Gearhart said the island’s closure was prompted by incomplete records indicating clean-up efforts after weapons testing ended.
Officials started looking into the records after a request by the National Park Service to expand recreational opportunities on the island.
Gearhart said the Navy is currently securing funds for the first phase of risk assessment, which involves going through archival records and photography. This $400,000 effort will be funded through the Navy, Gearhart said.
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This initial overview will take up to 15 months. If no live ordnance is found, Gearhart said the Navy will reopen the island for limited public use. San Miguel is part of the Channel Island chain about 70 miles west of Ventura.
If officials find dangerous material, the island could be closed for another year.
"The Navy is dedicated to the conservation of our national resources, of which the Channel Islands are a unique and critical piece," said Capt. Larry Vasquez, the base’s commanding officer, in a statement. "But the safety and wellbeing of (park service) personnel and those who visit San Miguel Island are our highest concern."
The news comes as at least two politicians are pushing for the Navy to complete their review quickly.
"The anticipated 1,500 visitors and 500 campers who visit the island each year are losing out on a cherished experience of the natural and cultural beauty unique to our National Park system," said Congresswomen Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and Julia Brownley, D-Oak Park, sent a letter to Vasquez. "Reduced visitation to (San Miguel) is also harming our local economy by taking away business from local touring companies."