Companies hoping to bring development projects to the former Umatilla Chemical Depot won’t be able to get started for at least eight more months after the Army pushed the latest deadline for transferring the land from December to May.
“I don’t know what else we can do,” said Greg Smith, director of the Columbia Development Authority.
Once the land — 17,000 acres at the junction of Interstate 84 and Interstate 82 outside of Hermiston — is transferred from the U.S. Army’s ownership, it will be divided up as an Oregon Military Department training base, a wildlife refuge and industrial land.
In June 2013, Smith’s predecessor Don Chance told the East Oregonian that transfer of a portion of the property to the Oregon Military Department would likely happen within 60 days, with the rest of it transferred to local control in time for businesses to open their doors in 2014. That’s been the story ever since — transfer of the property will happen “soon,” followed by an announcement that the Army’s Base Realignment and Closure office has shifted the timeline for transfer by a few more months.
Smith said at this point he’s highly skeptical of any deadline given, including the newest May 2018 timeline, but “we have no choice but to accept it.”
With a variety of issues such as water rights already worked out, much of the remaining work centers around protecting cultural sites such as wagon ruts from the Oregon Trail and areas of religious significance to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian reservation.
“The CDA has said, you tell us what to do and we’ll do it to meet that standard,” Smith said.
Other local officials have been frustrated by the continual delays as well. Umatilla County Commissioner Larry Givens called the latest news from the Army a “big disappointment.” In a recent interview Lt. Col. Noel Hoback said the Oregon Military Department is also anxious to gain full control over its portion of the depot so the department can begin making capital improvements to Camp Umatilla.
The BRAC office did not provide information about the reasons for the latest delay by deadline.
Contact Jade McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4536.