IRRIGON - The meeting with U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D.-Ore., had barely begun when Barb Huwe asked a question firmly on the mind of people living just two miles north of the Umatilla Chemical Depot.
"Why aren't we receiving infrastructure (money) or support for the depot project out here?" the Irrigon resident asked during a town hall meeting with Wyden.
The funds Huwe asked about are generally termed "impact aid." But at the rate they've been coming, some might call them "continental drift."
Umatilla and Morrow counties have sought about $50 million for about four years, claiming that the government isn't paying its share because the project is on federal land and doesn't pay local taxes.
However, employees from the depot live in local towns and have impacts on such things as roads and schools, and some businesses haven't moved to the area because of the depot.
Though Congress is studying the impacts on communities in the eight sites that hold America's chemical depots, some said they were tired of waiting for the money.
"Much of this stuff that we've had (at the depot) is in our present or in our past," said Umatilla Mayor George Hash. "That money they keep talking abut is in our future and we need it now."
Wyden, who later took his first tour of the depot, said Oregon's congressmen wouldn't give up on seeking the funds.
"We're going to be darn sure our delegation ... Sen. (Gordon) Smith, Rep. (Greg) Walden and I are gonna push for that," he said.
However, he said that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's plans for a missile defense system could divert these potential funds if passed.
"If he gets his way, I'm not sure how we're going to do a lot of things for this nation," Wyden said.
Others raised concerns about reports that incinerating the nation's stockpile of chemical weapons may take years longer than originally planned, which Wyden said he wouldn't let happen.
"We're not going to let them find excuses to put it off," he said.
Wyden later took his first tour of the depot's incinerator plant, wherein he saw the intricate machinery that will slice, drain and burn the depot's chemical weapons.
Although anti-incineration activists have recently presented documents showing that incineration could take years longer than planned; if the information is correct, which a congressional research team verified, Umatilla's stockpile might not be destroyed until 2012.
However, Wyden said he wasn't willing to let the weapons sit for several more years just a few miles from 19,000 people while another method of destroying the weapons is sought.
"It's time to get rid of it," he said about the stockpile.