August 24, 2005

Wyden, Smith Applaud Move to Close Umatilla Chemical Weapons Depot

Senators support BRAC vote to close Depot after completion of mission;Department of Defense to cover environmental cleanup costs

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) today welcomed the vote of the Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) Commission to accept the Pentagon's recommendation to close the Umatilla Chemical Depot once its current mission is complete. Including Umatilla, the Army has eight installations currently storing chemical weapons in the United States; in a letter to BRAC Chairman Anthony Principi earlier this year, Wyden and Smith supported continued funding and staffing for the completion of the Depot's mission prior to closure. The Commission is voting this week on all recommendations to be made to the President regarding closures and realignments of military installations nationwide. "Today's BRAC vote means that the Defense Department can focus on safeguarding and permanently cleaning up the chemicals stored in eastern Oregon, with the end of the Depot's mission in sight," said Wyden. "Rather than posing a burden, this facility can be cleaned up and put to better use for the entire community." "The Depot has played a major role in the history of the area as surrounding communities have grown up around it," said Smith. "Today's vote ensures that the Depot's mission of safe destruction will continue to its end. It also marks the beginning of the next chapter of opportunity and growth for the region as the site readies for a new use." Under the law that created this round of BRAC closures, the Defense Department will be responsible for the cost of environmental cleanup in and around the Depot. Wyden and Smith have long supported safety and cleanup efforts at the site; in 2003, the Senators worked to secure $4.1 million for the Umatilla Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparation Program. The funds were used for a variety of safety projects in and around the Umatilla Depot. While applauding BRAC's decision on the Umatilla Depot, both Senators continue to oppose the Pentagon proposal to gut the 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland. That plan would leave only two alert fighter jets at the Portland Air Base, leaving the Northwest vulnerable to attack. BRAC Commissioners are expected to vote on the Portland Air Base plan this week as well.