Deseret Chemical Depot's Life Could Be Prolonged

Deseret Chemical Depot's Life Could Be Prolonged

Save Story

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The nation's largest chemical weapons depot might be given a new mission.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission on Wednesday overruled a Pentagon recommendation that the depot near Tooele close once its mission to destroy chemical weapons is completed, probably in 2012. The committee instead voted to have the military conduct a comprehensive study to see if it can be converted to demilitarize conventional weapons. If conversion is not feasible, then the Army's Deseret Chemical Depot would close.

The four Republican members of Utah's congressional delegation earlier this summer sent a letter to Anthony Principi, chairman of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, requesting that commissioners leave open the option that the depot's mission could be changed to dispose of aging shells, rockets and missile parts.

"The commissioners accepted our recommendation to push back the closing date of Deseret and are exploring other ways to use the facility," Sen. Orrin Hatch said in a statement.

"This large investment should not be abandoned," the Utah Republican wrote Principi last month. "It would be a more responsible use of taxpayer funds, as well as more environmentally friendly, to consider converting the chemical destruction plant to a conventional munitions disposal operation rather than completely dismantling and tearing down this facility."

To make the change, Congress would have to change the existing law, which calls for the incinerator to be decommissioned and torn down.

The committee also didn't agree with another Pentagon recommendation to close Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada and shuffle some functions to the Tooele Army Depot, which is about 20 miles north of the Deseret Chemical Depot.

"We were hoping for the extra work from Hawthorne, but today's decision doesn't affect Tooele's existing mission," Hatch said.

The Pentagon made its recommendations to close, downsize or expand about 900 military installations across the county, and the committee began a four-day meeting Wednesday to vote on the proposals.

Vickie McCall with the Utah Defense Alliance, the group that has lobbied to keep Utah's military installations off the Pentagon's chopping block, will be in the nation's capital Friday when the commission is expected to address changes to Air Force installations.

It won't be a public meeting, but she's hoping to bend a few ears during committee breaks to prevent any surprise cuts to the Utah facilities, especially the largest -- Hill Air Force Base.

Based on Pentagon recommendations released May 13, Utah stands to lose about 400 civilian and military jobs.

"Right now, we're feeling pretty good but you never know till it's over," McCall said Wednesday. "We're just crossing our fingers, hoping that we do well."

She said she's been in contact with commission member Jim Hansen, a former Utah Republican congressman, on a daily basis.

"He says there will be changes, but he hasn't suggested anything regarding Utah," she said.

Even though Air Force installations weren't scheduled for votes until later this week, the agenda could change, making it unclear when commissioners might vote on Utah facilities. The Pentagon's May recommendations would result in a handful of jobs being lost at Fort Douglas and at the Tooele Army Depot.

Of the projected job losses in Utah, the committee list recommended a net loss of only 145 of Hill's 24,000 jobs. Few expected the base -- which is estimated to contribute $4 billion to the state's economy -- to be closed or significantly scaled back because Hill's mission as an air logistics center is an important one.

Hill's aging fleet of F-16 fighter jets would be reassigned to installations in Florida, replaced by newer F-16s -- a move that could ultimately expand Hill's workload, members of Utah's congressional delegation have said.

The closures and downsizings would occur over six years starting in 2006.

The commission will forward its recommendations by Sept. 8 to President Bush, who has until Sept. 23 to accept or reject the list in its entirety.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics



Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast