Navy unit explodes munitions at Lake Hancock

The Navy is still finding munitions at a site that was once used as a World War II bombing range.

Even after multiple cleanup efforts going back decades, the Navy is still finding munitions at a Central Whidbey site that was once used as a World War II bombing range.

Officials at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island alerted the public last week that the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Eleven Detachment Northwest was conducting a demolition of ordnance discovered at the Lake Hancock training area.

The Navy warned that people in the vicinity may hear an explosion or feel the vibration. Firefighters were at the site as a precaution in the dry weather.

The 423-acre site, formerly called the Lake Hancock Target Range, was one of the original military ranges created during World War II. The Navy used the area as a bombing range and a mine-laying training area from 1943 until 1971, according to the base.

Munitions have been found that date back as far as 1943.

“The items slated for disposal in place are expected to be inert practice rounds,” base Public Affairs Officer Mike Welding wrote in an email.

“However, out of an abundance of caution, Navy officials decided to dispose of them in place.”

The inert bombs may also have “spotting charges” that have the capability to injure, according to a University of Washington report on the site.

While Lake Hancock hasn’t been used for aerial bombing practice in 50 years, “the airspace overhead and the nearby offshore area are designated as a training area and are used for non-kinetic testing and training activities,” according to Welding.

The area has been off-limits to the public since the 1940s and the Navy has no plans to open it to public use. Wetland scientists consider it a rare, untouched gem with a diverse ecology.

The Navy works with the Nature Conservancy to manage the land.

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