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Bolsa Chica Bunkers and more art by Elizabeth Kenneday

Bolsa Chica Bunkers, 2020
20 x 27 inch (h x w)
Photographic Construction

For a brief six years, a US military base occupied the mesa of the Bolsa Chica beach, wetlands and mesa land area situated along the Pacific Ocean coast in southern California. The bombing of US Naval Base Pearl Harbor by the Japanese government in December 1941 prompted the establishment of a Military Reservation in 1942 to protect the coastline from enemy vessels. Two 155mm guns capable of launching a one-ton shell 28 miles into the Pacific Ocean, were installed. They were never fired in combat.

In addition to the gun emplacements, other structures were built, including the massive concrete bunkers depicted in this imagery to store munitions and house personnel.

Deactivation of the base in 1948 left polluted waters in the wetlands that exchange flow with the Pacific Ocean and are home to hundreds of species of waterfowl, as well as flyover species; contaminated soil on the mesa, where raptors nest above the wetlands; and toxic hazard “hotspots” of unexploded munitions and ordinances.

After World War II ended, Bolsa Chica was bitterly contested by land developers wanting to build homes on valuable southern California coastal land and environmentalists seeking to preserve the ecologically unique wetlands and mesa complex. The need for extensive restoration in the wake of the military occupation sidelined development capability, allowing environmentalists to effect the establishment of the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in 1979, protecting the wetlands. The southwestern edge directly of the mesa above the wetlands was added to the Reserve in 1997, with the remaining mesa ceded to land developers.

To date, $191,000USD has been spent on the cleanup of hazardous sites at this installation with an estimated $12,300,000USD required to complete the process. Final Cleanup Action is slated for September of 2048 with ongoing monitoring of the site continuing until September 2078.



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other works by Elizabeth Kenneday

Munitions Bunker, 2020
20 x 27 inch (h x w)
Digital Photography

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Munitions Bunker, 2020
20 x 27 inch (h x w)
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