Marine Corps officials are warning recreational boaters near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to stay away from “no trespassing” areas in and around Browns Island, which the Marines use frequently for live-fire exercises.
In the months following September 2018′s devastating Hurricane Florence, which slammed the North Carolina coast, Marine base explosive ordnance disposal personnel detonated four 250 pound bombs on the island that had been uncovered by the storm.
“These bombs yielded extremely dangerous, high order detonations," said spokesman Nat Fahy, director of communications strategy and operations for Marine Corps Installations East.
Now, due to erosion from the powerful hurricane, more previously unexploded ordnance has been exposed on the island, Marine spokesman 1st. Lt. Andrew Martino said in a news release.
The ordnance was discovered during base assessments for hurricane damage.
Local fisherman and most local boaters are aware of long-in-place restrictions to the island, as well as nearby creeks and tributaries, said Fahy. But boat traffic from the nearby Atlantic-Intracoastal Waterway picks up significantly from May through October.
“During the Memorial Day weekend, there was a significant increase in the number of boaters violating the no-trespassing order, which could have resulted in tragic consequences,” he said.
Military police and the Coast Guard will continue to patrol the area and issue citations to trespassers. Violators may be “imprisoned up to six months and fined a maximum of $5,000,” according to the press release.
Boaters may proceed through Browns Inlet waterway with caution and without stopping when the military is not there.
“For safety reasons due to the presence of unexploded projectiles, any contact with the bottom of the waterways or any bottom disturbing activity is strictly prohibited,” according to the Code of Federal Regulations. No crab pots, fishing with bottom dragging nets or anchoring is allowed anywhere in the vicinity of Browns Island.
Though the areas are normally well-marked, many warning signs were lost during Hurricane Florence, the Marine Corps says.
The Marine base has a contract out for bid to replace the signs, according to Fahy.
Andrea Scott is editor of Marine Corps Times. On Twitter: _andreascott.