The Camp Ibis Formerly Used Defense Site, or FUDS, is located 21 miles northwest of Needles in San Bernardino County, California. The camp comprised approximately 10,215 acres and was situated roughly between the Homer Mountains on the west and the Dead Mountains on the east. State Highway 95 passes through the western edge of the property.
In March 1942 the War Department tasked General George S. Patton Jr. with finding a desert training site that matched the conditions of North Africa. After three days of surveying, General Patton identified a vast area that reached into southeast California and southwest Arizona as the ideal location for the new Desert Training Center. Camp Ibis was established as one of the camps within the Desert Training Center.
Construction of Camp Ibis began in the winter of 1942 and was completed around March 1943. The mission of Camp Ibis and the other Desert Training Center camps was to train troops for desert warfare and to test equipment, ammunition, weapon systems and supplies. Various Army armor divisions were stationed and trained at the camp.
In October 1943 the name of the Desert Training Center was changed to the California-Arizona Maneuver Area to reflect a change in mission and purpose for the training. As the desert war in North Africa wound down and the theater of operations shifted to Europe, the Maneuver Area was repurposed to train combat troops, service units and staffs under conditions similar to those that might be encountered in Europe. The total Maneuver Area encompassed 12 million acres, making it the largest training area in the United States. Close to one million troops trained in this area between 1942 and 1944. On 30 March 1944, the California-Arizona Maneuver Area, including Camp Ibis, was declared surplus by the War Department. All of the major commands were ordered to close their facilities and clean up each camp. The cleanup activities included limited munitions removal operations in the primary ranges and known maneuver areas. Additional munitions removal operations were conducted until 1954; however, when the land was returned, the owners were informed that munitions may still remain and warning signs were posted.
Today the former Camp Ibis property is located on remote, undeveloped land owned by the Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management; state of California; city of Needles and private entities. The Dead Mountains Wilderness, managed by BLM, within the Camp Ibis property boundary is a designated wilderness area and has limited public use.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began investigating Camp Ibis through the FUDS Program in 1994. Its review of historical maps and documents indicated that some of the training ranges had safety fans that extended beyond the camp’s 10,215 acres. Based on its research, the Corps of Engineers expanded the investigation area to a total of 13,398 acres. During site visits and investigations, the Corps of Engineers identified munitions and explosives of concern, and munitions debris from projectiles, high explosive projectiles, land mines, grenades and small arms. The expanded investigation area was divided into four areas of interest (AB, C1, C2 and C3), according to the type of munitions identified, the munitions’ locations and land use.
Based on the investigation findings, the Corps of Engineers identified six potential remedial alternatives for each area of interest. The remedial alternatives were then analyzed and compared based on their cleanup effectiveness, ease of implementation and cost. The February 2006 Final Institutional Controls Implementation Plan documents the selected remedial alternative, which combines safety education outreach activities with protection of the remote desert landscape and habitat of the desert tortoise. The plan also details the Corps of Engineers’ strategy to place signs on the former Camp Ibis property to alert visitors of potential explosive hazards; to develop explosives safety education materials (fact sheets, brochures and website content) for distribution to area residents, visitors, and businesses; and to conduct explosives safety programs in schools. Since explosive hazards remain at Camp Ibis, the plan also included a requirement for the Corps of Engineers to conduct five-year recurring reviews to evaluate if the selected remedial alternative remains protective of human health and the environment.
The first Five-Year Review was conducted from June 2011 to August 2012. During the review, the Corps of Engineers identified missing and faded signs that needed to be replaced, damaged signs that needed hardware upgrades, and outdated education materials as issues that the Corps of Engineers should address in order to ensure the remedial alternative remains protective of human health, safety and the environment. Based on these findings, the Corps of Engineers recommended replacing all the explosive hazard signs at Camp Ibis with new ultraviolet-resistant signs set on posts with tamperproof hardware. A second recommendation was to update the safety education materials and make them available to the BLM, Needles Chamber of Commerce and Needles Museum for distribution to their visitors.