HERMISTON - Emergency readiness programs near the Umatilla Chemical Depot will receive $4.9 million this year to dispose of chemical weapons - more than $1 million less than Oregon's congressional delegation sought.

A release from Rep. Greg Walden's office says the deferred items "are still under negotiation and study by Oregon, the counties and FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency)."

Cheryl Humphrey, the public information officer for Umatilla County's Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, said Wednesday that the ramifications of the $4.9 million aren't yet known. The matter will be discussed by emergency and county officials at a press conference this afternoon.

Walden and Sens. Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden sought $6.3 million for Oregon. The deferred amount could cover items like radios, cellular phones and a mobile command center, the release says.

"It is crucial for FEMA to fully fund the programs necessary to provide safety and peace of mind to folks in Morrow and Umatilla counties, and I will continue to work closely with the involved parties to ensure that this happens," Walden said in his release.

Defense Department officials on Tuesday told Smith that the agency was releasing $60 million for destruction of chemical weapons nationwide. That amount will be split among the nation's eight depot sites.

President Clinton requested, and Congress approved, the money last year. But the release of the money has been delayed for months. Smith said the released funding shows that defense officials are 'finally getting serious' about protecting the safety of Oregon residents.

The depot, seven miles west of Hermiston, stores 220,604 munitions and containers filled with 7.4 million pounds of deadly nerve and mustard agents. The Army plans to begin incinerating the weapons in October 2001.

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