Army May Not Return Oregon Chemical Depot Site to LRA

The Army is reconsidering a plan to transfer thousands of acres at the former Umatilla Chemical Depot in northern Oregon to the site’s local redevelopment authority at no cost.

The Columbia Development Authority, formerly the Umatilla Army Depot Reuse Authority, had planned on obtaining up to 9,500 acres via a no-cost economic development conveyance, with 3,000 acres designated for industrial development. The LRA doesn’t have the resources to purchase the site, reported the East Oregonian.

“It was a pretty significant reversal from what we had been told up until last month,” project manager Don Chance told the authority’s board.

It is still possible the LRA and the Army could come to an agreement, Chance added.

An Army spokesman said officials have not yet made a decision on how the service will convey the property.

This would be the second time the Army has tried to reverse course on returning the depot, which was recommended for closure in the 2005 BRAC round, to community interests. In 2011, the service decided Umatilla would not close under the BRAC statute when officials learned that its chemical weapons stockpile would not be destroyed by the Sept. 15, 2011, BRAC implementation deadline.

The state’s congressional delegation came to the rescue in that instance, adding language to the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill requiring the depot’s reuse to follow the BRAC process.

Umatilla and Morrow counties, which are represented on the LRA, have spent more than two decades planning the reuse of the 20,000-acre facility. The authority plans to turn some land over to the Oregon National Guard for a training facility, convert some into a wildlife preserve and sell or lease the rest for industrial and agricultural use, according to the story.

The congressional delegation has vowed to work with DOD and the authority to resolve the latest issue.

“The Umatilla community helped shoulder a deadly burden for this nation for decades,” according to a statement from Sen. Ron Wyden (D). “It is very disappointing to hear that the Pentagon now wants to return the favor by charging the community to have the land back.”

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