July 14, 2011

Wyden, Merkley File Amendments to Require Umatilla Chemical Depot be Closed Under BRAC

Washington, D.C. – Following up on a promise to legislatively block the Army’s 11th – hour decision to forego twenty years of planning and more than a million dollars of taxpayer funds by closing the Umatilla Chemical Depot outside of the BRAC process, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) filed amendments to the Military Construction Appropriations bill to prohibit the spending of any federal funds to close the depot outside of the BRAC program.

“This last minute attempt to throw away years of work and over a million in taxpayer money is shameful,” Wyden said. “The amendments I have introduced to the appropriations bill being considered make it impossible for the DoD to ignore the letter and spirit of the BRAC law with an 11th hour land grab at the expense of the residents of Umatilla and Morrow.”

“For over 20 years, the local community has worked with tribes, the National Guard, and the ports to come to a consensus to utilize the Umatilla Chemical Depot land after decommissioning. This work cannot be squandered,” Merkley said. “These amendments shouldn’t be necessary, but I’m proud to work with Senator Wyden to make DoD follow through on its responsibilities.”

In a letter to the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Wyden, along with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Representative Greg Walden (R-Ore.), called the decision not to close the depot under BRAC “wasteful and counterproductive” and claimed that the Army was violating the  BRAC statute. Since 1962, the depot has been home to some of the Army’s most dangerous chemical weapons. When it was clear that the weapons would be destroyed, the state began a more than 20 year process to plan for the eventual closure of the facility. The depot will be closed when the cleanup process is complete, a date that will fall just months after the BRAC deadline for facility closure, opening up the opportunity for the Army to maintain control of the facility.

Under the plan developed and put forward by local officials, the Oregon National Guard will receive part of the land for training purposes and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will receive another part as a wildlife refuge. A third portion of the land will be given to the ports of Umatilla and Morrow for economic development.

Click here to read the letter.