The Dolly Sods region is located between Canaan Valley and Seneca Rocks within the Monongahela National Forest in Grant, Randolph and Tucker counties of West Virginia. High upon the Allegheny Plateau, with elevations ranging from 2,600 to 4,100 feet, the region of more than 18,500 acres is well known for its extensive rocky plains, upland bogs and sweeping vistas. In recent years, 45,000 to 76,000 people have visited the Dolly Sods region annually. The remoteness, natural experience and limited human influences attract adventurous hikers, mountain bikers, anglers, hunters and berry pickers.
The area is named for the pioneer Dahle (pronounced "Dolly") family, which formerly owned and cleared some of the area for grazing. Logging occurred in the area during the late 1800s and came to an end between 1910 and 1913. Fires from logging operations burned so hot that the local topsoil and humus layers were destroyed; this contributed to the formation of the unique environment found in the Dolly Sods region. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) purchased the land, and during the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps planted red pine and other conifers, and aided in the construction of Forest Service Road 75 (FR 75) (USACE, 1995).
Many of the lands now referred to as Dolly Sods were acquired by the U.S. Federal Government between 1916 and 1939. During 1943 and 1944, military maneuver exercises and artillery/mortar practice were conducted in the Dolly Sods region by the U.S. Department of the Army (USDoA), as training for involvement in World War II (WWII). Following the 1943 to 1944 military maneuvers in the Dolly Sods region, and prior to returning the land to the USFS in 1950, the USDoA (i.e., the Engineer Bomb and Shell Disposal Team No. 6) conducted an ordnance clearance during May 1946 (USACE, 2004b). The team completed a "thorough reconnaissance of the entire WVMA." Records indicate that the team found and destroyed 189 4.2 inch SR mortars, one 155 mm HE projectile, three 105 mm HE projectiles, two 40 mm projectiles, and "12 or 14" inert (sand-loaded) rounds in the Dolly Sods region; information concerning the locations of all of these found items is not available. All suspected impact areas (which were pointed out to the team by USFS personnel), with the exception of certain regions to the north and northeast of the DSN and DSSA (which were too rough or overgrown to be searched) were thoroughly searched during the 1946 clearance effort; all lands except for the regions not searched were "recommended as safe for grazing, lumbering, or hunting" subsequent to the clearance. During May of 1953, the 549 Ordnance EOD from Baltimore, Maryland conducted a follow-up reconnaissance and disposal mission of suspected impact areas in the Dolly Sods region. Six live rounds were located and destroyed during this mission, and from the field work it was determined that "previous clearance operations were good." Additional information concerning these clearance operations is not available; records regarding military operations in the area are scarce because the majority of pertinent documents have been lost or destroyed over time.
USACE project team member Wallace Dean
The exact amount of ordnance remaining in the Dolly Sods region is undetermined. However, ordnance-related risk is illustrated by a sporadic but continuous discovery of UXO, between the initial USDoA clearance and the year 2005, by recreational visitors. One ordnance-related injury occurred in the region. During December 1951, when Wallace Dean, a former USACE employee and project team member was a teenager, one of his friends picked up a piece of live ordnance and then set it down, at which point it exploded and caused severe damage to Wallace’s legs. Fortunately, Wallace received prompt treatment and was able to walk again within a year. Information concerning the amount and types of OE-related scrap and UXO that have been found and removed/disposed of since 1983 is well documented (USACE, 2004a) and maintained by the USACE Huntington District.
To address ordnance-related concerns in the Dolly Sods region, an ordnance response project was authorized under the DERP for Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS). Such projects are authorized for sites that were contaminated while under the control of the Department of Defense (DoD), but were transferred out of DoD control prior to 1986. DoD delegated authority for executing ordnance response activities at FUDS to the USACE through Headquarters, Department of the Army (HQDoA). The USACE Huntington District is the Geographic District with Dolly Sods project management responsibilities, and project technical support is provided by the U.S. Army Engineering Support Center (USAESC) in Huntsville.
Blackbird Knob and Rocky Ridge Trail Intersection
A remedial investigation/feasibility study (RI/FS) was authorized during 1990 (Vandevelde, 1990). During 1991, the USACE conducted field work to estimate the extent of ordnance contamination in the Dolly Sods region. Sixteen areas totaling 281 acres in the DSW were searched using hand-held magnetometers (Metcalf & Eddy, 1991). The sixteen areas were selected to provide a distribution of investigation, and because they were suspected to likely contain ordnance (based on topography and information obtained during a records search and site investigation). The areas consisted of hilltops (e.g., Breathed Mountain and Cabin Mountain); as they were considered to be likely targets, as well as locations which were considered to likely contain undershots from firing at Blackbird Knob (which is located in DSN and just north of DSW). A "surface sweep" (within six inches of the surface) was conducted and seven pieces of UXO were found. A "subsurface sweep" (between six and 24 inches depth) was also conducted, and six pieces of UXO were found. The 13 total UXO included a 57 mm AP projectile, and 60 mm HE, 81 mm HE and SR, and 4.2 inch inert, HE, and SR mortars. Nine fragments were found in addition to these items. Some of the found ordnance was exploded in place while some was moved a short distance and then exploded (Metcalf & Eddy, 1992).
Based on information obtained during the 1991 feasibility study, an Environmental Assessment (EA) was initiated by USACE in 1995 to address remediation alternatives for the Dolly Sods project. An EA and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) were completed for both DSW and DSN in 1995 and 1997 respectively (NBE, 1995; NBE, 1997). An ordnance removal action, focused on significant reduction of public risk in DSW,
Magnetometer Sweep Operation on the Northern End of Red Creek Trail
DSN and DSSA, which considered factors such as cost and environmental impact, was then conducted by USACE during 1997 and 1998.
Ordnance removal activities in DSW occurred between 4 June 1997 and 17 October 1997. Using hand-held magnetometers, Human Factors Applications, Inc. (HFA) cleared 26.14 miles of designated and maintained trails and 20 feet each side (126.7 total acres), to a depth of one foot depth. Inventoried campsites (112 campsites; 8.83 total acres) were cleared to a depth of four feet. Magnetic anomalies resulted in 32,594 digs. Most anomalies resulted from railroad debris and spikes, artifacts such as axes, hammers, picks, and stove parts, and magnetic rocks; such items were returned to their original location. A total of 14 live mortars, including 60 mm HE and 81 mm HE, were found and destroyed by detonation.
DSN and DSSA ordnance removal activities occurred between 20 October 1997 and 18 August 1998 (field work did not occur between November 1997 and May 1998 due to inclement weather). Using hand-held magnetometers, HFA cleared 29.65 miles of designated and maintained trails and 20 feet each side (143.76 total acres), to a depth of one foot. Inventoried campsites and cabins (66 campsites and 6 cabins; 2.18 total acres) were cleared to a depth of four feet. Magnetic anomalies resulted in 23,191 digs. Most anomalies were found to result from railroad debris and spikes, artifacts, and magnetic rocks; such items were returned to their original location. A total of eight live mortars, including 60 mm HE and 4.2 inch SR and HE, were found and destroyed by detonation. Inert (19, 4.2 inch mortars) rounds were also located during the clearance and properly disposed of. OE-related scrap (a total of 1043.5 pounds) was recovered in DSN and DSSA.
The 1997 to 1998 ordnance removal action was the most feasible alternative based on the influencing factors of cost, environmental impact, and reduction of public risk. The removal/disposal of 22 live mortars, 19 inert mortars, and 1151.5 pounds of OE-related scrap, significantly reduced the quantity of items posing a hazard to the public in the most widely used areas of the Dolly Sods region. Due to the following conditions and facts, the action could not, and was not expected to, negate ordnance-related risk entirely: 1) the environment has changed over the course of sixty years since World War II training; 2) movements of military forces in the area were random in nature and undocumented, and cleared areas were chosen based upon speculation of past military maneuvers and locations of targets and firing positions; 3) the region consists of a vast amount of mountainous and rugged terrain, and heavy rains could dislodge ordnance which coupled with the mountain slopes could cause migration; 4) the course of the cleared trails could change over time due to public movement and/or erosion, hunters and adventurous explorers are apt to roam without regard to existing trails, and throughout the region there are numerous trails that are not designated or maintained but have been and could continue to be used; 5) campsites are not permanently marked and there is not restriction upon where camping can occur; and 6), a comprehensive search of the entire region would not reduce potential risk to zero (current technology cannot provide a 100 percent certainty that all ordnance and explosives have been removed), and would likely prove as environmentally damaging as it would be expensive.
Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 1991, Feasibility Study Dolly Sods Wilderness: Final Work Plan for Surface and Subsurface Investigation and On-Site Disposal of Ordnance. Prepared for USACE, Huntsville District, Huntsville, AL.
Metcalf & Eddy, Inc., 1992, Feasibility Study Dolly Sods Wilderness: Engineering Report for Extent of OEW Contamination and Evaluation of Remedial Action Alternatives. Prepared for USACE, Huntsville District, Huntsville, AL.
New Bold Enterprises (NBE), 1995, Dolly Sods Wilderness Ordnance Removal Project Environmental Assessment. Prepared for USACE, Huntington District, Huntington, WV.
NBE, 1997, Dolly Sods North Ordnance Removal Project Environmental Assessment. Prepared for USACE, Huntington District, Huntington, WV.
USACE, 1995, Archives Search Report: Findings for the Former Dolly Sods North. Prepared by USACE, Rock Island District, Rock Island, IL. Prepared for USACE, Huntsville District, Huntsville, AL.
USACE, 2003, Formerly Used Defense Sites Newsletter. Prepared by USACE, Huntington District, Huntington, WV.
USACE, 2004b, CEMVS-ED-P Memorandum dated 26 April 2004, Subject: Potential DERP FUDS Projects – West Virginia Maneuver Area.
USACE, 2004a, Database containing information regarding OE-related scrap and UXO found in the Dolly Sods Region. Developed and maintained by USACE, Huntington District, Huntington, WV.
USACE, Huntington District, WV.
Vandevelde, C., 1990, Letter dated 9 August 1990 concerning approval of remedial investigation/feasibility study for Dolly Sods Wilderness,