As local leaders anxiously await transfer of the former Umatilla Chemical Depot to local control, the Oregon Military Department is looking forward to receiving their portion of the land as well.
Lt. Col. Noel Hoback, who became the newest commander of Oregon Training Command earlier this month, said the transfer of approximately 7,400 acres of the land from the U.S. Army to the Oregon Military Department will allow them to upgrade Camp Umatilla, making it a safer, more effective place for soldiers to train.
The depot was constructed in 1941 in preparation for World War II, and Hoback said it seems that many of the buildings being used by the National Guard now were part of the original construction.
“They’re old buildings,” he said. “There’s just a lot of improvement needed.”
The department has been putting together a list of planned capital improvements to buildings, ranges and infrastructure and is working on completing all of the necessary environmental impact studies. But until the Army transfers the land, the National Guard is a tenant and not the property’s owner.
Camp Umatilla is one of four training centers in the state, all overseen by Oregon Training Command. According to the U.S. Army’s website, it is the “Oregon National Guard’s 1st Infantry Training Battalion of the 249th Regional Training Institute and the only certified Army infantry training academy west of the Mississippi River in the continental United States.”
Hoback said the land transfer will likely lead to a moderate increase in staffing and other activity out at the camp, including some units doing their annual training there during the summer.
“I think it’s going to be good for the community,” he said.
He said the people using the base will be Oregonians’ “neighbors and friends” instead of people coming in from out of state.
After years of delays, the latest plan is for the transfer of the depot land to happen on Dec. 1. About 7,400 acres will go to the Oregon Military Department, while about 5,600 acres will become a wildlife refuge and approximately 4,000 acres will be used for industrial, agricultural and right of way development. The transportation package passed by the state legislature this year sets aside money for the Columbia Development Authority to improve access to the depot from Interstate 82.
Contact Jade McDowell at email@example.com or 541-564-4536.