Inspections Tuesday of the cliff above U.S. Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment produced no conclusion on whether wires found jutting from drilled holes lead to undetonated dynamite, possibly leftover from 1940s-era blasts that yielded the rock now shaping the area's protective jetties.
A geologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers examined the Ilwaco, Wash., headlands Tuesday afternoon, although he told the Coast Guard his agency has no records of conducting the initial blasts.
"He didn't think there were any remaining explosives in the cliff based on his experience working in quarries," said Lt. Matthew Hobbie, commanding officer at the Coast Guard station. "He thinks the wires were used to set off a charge, but he thinks the charge was below them, in an area already blasted."
Washington bomb experts drew conflicting conclusions Monday, thinking the wires could be linked to unexploded dynamite still embedded in the rock face, although they felt further examination was needed.
A private contractor hired by the Coast Guard is scheduled to analyze the cliff today and issue another assessment.
Contractors clearing vegetation for a cliff-stabilization project found the seven holes laced with wires and packing material, located from about 10 feet above ground to 100 feet up the cliff, Hobbie said.
Members of the Civil Engineering Unit in Oakland, Calif., which handles much of the maintenance and construction in the Coast Guard's Pacific area, were about halfway through with their efforts to shore up the cliff, which sent several rocks tumbling toward the boat station last year.
Work stoppedAll construction work came to a halt and the two buildings nearest the area, the National Motor Lifeboat School and the Coast Guard's boat garage, were evacuated Monday. Classes at the school were expected to resume today.
Coast Guard operations will not be disrupted as officials determine how to clear the cliff of possible explosives, Hobbie said.
"Nothing has interrupted our ability to respond to any emergency, search and rescue or homeland security," he said. "No people are threatened.
"In the worst case scenario, if a charge goes off, whether rock would fall down or come out away from cliff ... it all depends on how the charges were put into the cliff. Until we have a better assessment of the risk, we're not (opening the area)."