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Reuse of Oregon’s Umatilla Depot to Follow BRAC Rules

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  • December 18, 2011
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The community surrounding Umatilla Chemical Depot in northern Oregon received an early but well-earned Christmas gift last week, the result of a provision in the conference agreement for the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill requiring the reuse of the depot to follow the BRAC process and allowing the community to determine the site’s future.

Even though the depot was recommended for closure in the 2005 round, the Pentagon earlier this year decided that it would not close under the BRAC statute when officials learned that the chemical weapons stockpile would not be destroyed by the Sept. 15 implementation deadline. Umatilla and Morrow counties had spent more than 20 years, and $1 million, planning the reuse of the 20,000-acre facility.

“This is another example of the wisdom not all residing in the few miles surrounding the beltway,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D) told the Register-Guard.

Since that legal decision in May, members of the Oregon congressional delegation attached language to multiple bills to guarantee the depot’s redevelopment would follow the BRAC process. A similar provision also was included in the conference agreement to the omnibus spending bill struck last week. Both bills provide DOD one year after it has finished destroying the chemical weapons stockpile stored there to close the facility. Workers disposed of the last container of mustard agent in October.

The language in the omnibus includes a provision allowing the Army to retain about 7,500 acres at Umatilla as a training enclave for reserve components.

“It was outrageous that the Pentagon was going to ignore decades of local planning and keep the land under federal control,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D) said last week in a written statement. “Thankfully, today’s legislation will put an end to that effort. Now, the community will decide going forward how this land can be used for their best benefit.”

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