Photo by Jonathan (Jay) Koester, NCO Journal
With about 7,500 acres of former Umatilla Chemical Depot land now in the hands of the Oregon National Guard, the Oregon Military Department is planning to invest $25 million to improve the facilities.
According to a report Thursday from the public affairs office of the Oregon National Guard, the new training center west of Hermiston will be used for weekend and annual training requirements for the Guard and other military branches. It will also house the 249th Regional Training Institute, which trains infantry leaders.
The $25 million will be spent over several years, according to the release, and pay for sewer line repairs, a water distribution system, roads, fencing, improvements to offices, lodging and the dining facility and new classrooms. An additional $2 million has already been spent on the project.
The depot was constructed in 1941 in preparation for World War II, and Lt. Col. Noel Hoback told the East Oregonian in September it seems that many of the buildings being used by the National Guard were part of the original construction.
The Oregon National Guard has been training at the site since the 1980s and has built arms ranges and kept vehicles.
“A lot of the facilities and infrastructure out there haven’t been updated in decades if at all,” said Eric Manus, the senior manager for the Camp Umatilla construction projects. “We have already been out there working projects to modernize the infrastructure so that we have a solid foundation for building renovations over the next several years.”
The Oregon Adjutant General and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed a license on Nov. 27 that dedicated the land as a training center. The U.S. Army has yet to transfer the rest of the land to local control, including a 5,600-acre wildlife refuge and 4,000 acres of industrial development.
Jim Willeford is the Oregon Military Department’s head of construction, and said working with the needs of the neighboring entities is important.
“As we train out there, we want to have plans in place so that we can balance getting our training done with having minimal impact on the surrounding land and wildlife,” he said. “We also want to preserve some things like the old parade grounds for their historic value.”
Willeford said some of the large grass lawns will be turned back into desert, saving on irrigation.