Baby got BRAC
July 23, 2011 12:07 PM   Subscribe

The U.S. Army's Umatilla Chemical Weapons Depot is is set to shut down this fall. But the question of who should decide the future of the northeast Oregon depot reached the floor of the U.S. Senate Wednesday. The bill that won approval would keep that authority in the hands of a local commission rather than a federal agency. Oregon's Democratic U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley co-sponsored the measure.

The Chemical Weapons Depot is set to destroy the last of its chemical weapons stockpiles in late November. Unfortunately, this comes about a month and a half after the arbitrary deadline of mid-September established years ago, and threatens many years of careful planning. Missing the deadline has raised the threat of putting the land under the jurisdiction of the General Services Administration for the period after the deadline, meaning the land would then be disposed of according to the GSA's whims.

The Local Re-Use Authority had worked with several local groups for twenty years to make sure the Depot's land would be split between the local port authorities, the Oregon National Guard, and the U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service for various uses, including a rare undisturbed sage-steppe wildlife refuge.

Inspired by this local public radio piece (transcript). [Audio link - 3m06s]
posted by hippybear (9 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Great post, thank you. Federal vs local control is always a very hot topic here.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 12:24 PM on July 23, 2011

So, although it probably won't be hugely interesting to anybody here. I wrote the meteorological and geographical components of UMCD's chemical weapons dispersion modeling systems.

Any news about UMCD's second (or third?) life always brings a smile to my face.
posted by The Giant Squid at 12:35 PM on July 23, 2011 [8 favorites]

It's interesting to me, The Giant Squid, I'm always happy to know there's somebody here at MeFi who knows which way the wind blows.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:52 PM on July 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Nice catch and great post, thanks hippybear. It really is disconcerting (or at least it was until it seemed normal) to see the "EVAC ROUTE" signs and weirdly placed railroad-crossing style gates along US730 through the area east of Umatilla (prevailing winds area). Hoping it all ends soon in a good way.
posted by wallabear at 2:24 PM on July 23, 2011

Having grown up downriver from Umatilla, I remember driving by and seeing this depot of huge mounds surrounded by giant cyclone fences. It was always right on the way to either the Tri-Cities or to Enterprise Or., ... always gave me the creeping-willies
posted by Relay at 2:40 PM on July 23, 2011

Yeah, this stuff is scary. I was at Fort McClellan in the 1990s, we would go to rifle ranges at Anniston Army Depot, which stored significant amounts of chemical weapons. Always, always had to have our protective masks on us while we were at those ranges. Signs about what to do when you hear a warning signal were all over the place. That was creepy. Since places such as Umatilla and Anniston became geared toward chemical demilitarization I don't find them as scary (granted I am not near them now) but rather as part of the process required to correct some really bad military policy decisions that are relics of the Cold War. I wonder if any of the CAIS (more from the U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency) were stored at Umatilla or used there at any time, that stuff still pops up all over and is a real threat to civilian populations (as chemical weapons really always were - more of a threat to civilians than militaries).
posted by IvoShandor at 3:28 PM on July 23, 2011

I'm always happy to know there's somebody here at MeFi who knows which way the wind blows.

Well, you don't need a weatherman to know that....
posted by hippybear at 7:24 AM on July 24, 2011

Always nice to see something that never should happened in this country in the first place go away.

When it actually happens I'll actually believe it.
posted by Twang at 7:33 PM on July 24, 2011

BRAC has been an unmitigated disaster virtually everywhere.

Here in the DC region, it's resulted in the construction of tons of new office space in logically-inexplicable locations in the far-flung suburbs that will be completely unable to accommodate the traffic volumes generated by the workers that will begin working there this fall. Worse still, it shifted tons of transit-accessible jobs to locations where driving is the only option.

Meanwhile, they're vacating office space in mixed-use neighborhoods with good transit access that are close to DC's urban core.

So, yeah. I'm pretty cynical about the whole thing. I can't possibly imagine that it's saving the government any money in the long run.
posted by schmod at 11:48 AM on July 25, 2011

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