As the Columbia Development Authority continues to discuss how best to preserve historical and cultural resources at the former Umatilla Chemical Depot, they got a little bit more to work with this week.
During a CDA board meeting held via conference call on Wednesday, Dec. 19, executive director Greg Smith told board members he was in Redmond, on his way to pick up a trove of original construction plans and communications from when the depot was built in the mid-1940s.
“It fell right out of the sky and into our lap,” he said.
Smith said state Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) had called him and told him she had found something that would be of interest to Umatilla and Morrow counties.
Johnson’s father, Sam Johnson, owned saw mills and other lumber holdings in the Bend and Redmond area, and his business had been contracted to provide the lumber for the construction of the depot’s buildings. She offered up the construction plans and corresponding documents to the CDA to preserve as part of the depot’s historical record.
Preservation of historical and cultural resources on the former depot land — including original ruts made by the Oregon Trail and places of significance to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation — is the last piece of the puzzle before the land transfers from the U.S. Army back to local control.The CDA had hoped to have the land transferred in 2018 (and several of the preceding years) but the process will roll over into 2019.
Smith told the Hermiston Herald that he has been meeting twice a month with the tribes and they should have a joint letter of agreement to hand over to the Army very soon. Everything else, including a draft of the deeds of trust for the transfer, is done.
“We are so, so close ... We want to do this correctly, and part of doing it correctly is getting a lot of public feedback,” he said.
The Columbia Development Authority is a partnership between Umatilla County, Morrow County, the Port of Morrow, Port of Umatilla and CTUIR. Once the depot land is transferred to the CDA (minus the portion that has been given to the Oregon Military Department for a National Guard training center) the organization can begin recruiting companies to develop the industrially-zoned acres.
During the meeting Wednesday Smith told board members he had extended a job offer to someone to replace Joleen Horning, executive assistant for the CDA, who recently left for another job. He said he couldn’t announce the name yet, but the person was someone with a good knowledge of economic development and the region who will help move things forward as the CDA begins marketing the depot.