Columbia Development Authority director Greg Smith is optimistic about a memorandum of understanding that the CDA board has sent to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation for review.

Getting approval for the plan to mitigate for cultural, historical and religiously significant parts of the former Umatilla Chemical Depot is the last major hurdle for transfer of the depot to local control.

“We are really close,” Smith said.

Transfer has been delayed by several years as the Columbia Development Authority has negotiated with the Army over everything from the price (free) to water rights and asbestos cleanup.

The Oregon Military Department has taken control of 7,500 acres for training purposes, but the bulk of the land — including a future wildlife preserve and industrial land being eyed by major corporations for development — is still in control of the Army.

For the past year the CDA has worked to come up with a required plan for preservation of culturally significant resources, such as the portions of the Oregon Trail that run through the depot.

If the memorandum of understanding approved by the CDA board on Friday is also approved by the tribes, the State Historic Preservation Office and the Army’s Base Re-alignment and Closure department, Smith said the depot should essentially be ready for transfer, minus a few housekeeping items.

Smith said the deal would transfer the northern section of the former Oregon Trail and another culturally significant site to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, while the CDA would preserve a southern part of the Oregon Trail for visitors.

The southern section would include a football field-sized portion of the trail for viewing, educational kiosks, parking and picnic tables.

He said the plan would not prevent the CDA from opening up portions of the depot to economic development after the transfer.

“Land that has been designated industrial remains industrial,” he said.

“In terms of having the ability to develop the property, nothing changes.”

Smith said the CTUIR had been involved with the drafting of the memorandum of understanding — including using their attorney as a scribe — and so he was “optimistic” that their board would sign off on the “win-win” agreement.

He said he also thought it likely that the appropriate state and federal agencies would approve the locally negotiated agreement.

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