Interest is Heavy in Depot Land

November 19, 2015, My Columbia Basin

Umatilla Chemical Depot Land

The Umatilla Chemical Weapons Depot, operated by the U.S. Army. Photo: U.S. Department of Energy

HERMISTON, Ore. – The Columbia Development Authority is still waiting for the Army to turn the Umatilla Chemical Depot land over. Meanwhile, Executive Director Greg Smith says interest in the property is strong in the private sector.“Our phone has been ringing off the hook,” he said. “We’ve had Fortune 500 companies calling us. We’ve had folks interested in aggregate mining calling us. We’ve had folks interested in inter-modal transportation options calling us.”

Smith says talks with the Army are progressing and he is confident that the land will be turned over to CDA in about 12 to 18 months. He says the issues that are being worked on are water rights and making sure the land is environmentally sound.

The wait doesn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm from companies looking to locate on the property near the intersection of Interstate 84 and Interstate 82.

“I’ve got a Fortune 500 (company) that has had me sign a confidentiality agreement,” Smith said. “They’re interested in about 200 acres of land. We’re in the process of signing a lease agreement with them.”

Smith says he’s also heard from three solar companies and a firm that distributes brakes throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The land will not just be used for industrial purposes. The bulk of it will be taken over by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation as a wildlife preserve and the Oregon National Guard for a training facility. The industrial portion is in both Umatilla and Morrow counties. Those entities as well as the ports of Umatilla and Morrow are involved in the talks to return the land to local use.

This story originally appeared in My Columbia Basin.