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Sierra Army Depot / Amedee Airfield
Herlong, CA

Sierra Army Depot (SIAD) is a government owned, government operated installation, functioning as part of the U. S. Army Industrial Operations Command, Rock Island, Illinois. SIAD is located in Herlong, California, in Lassen County's Honey Lake Valley, east of the Sierra Nevada mountains. SIAD's mission is to provide customers with high quality, cost effective operations in receipt, storage, repair, and issue of equipment and components for Operational Project Stock. SIAD also receives, stores, issues, maintains, and demilitarizes conventional ammunition. In 2005, DoD recommended to close Sierra Army Depot as part of its 2005 BRAC Recommendations (see below for details).

Sierra Army Depot is a munitions disposal site for the United States Army. It is licensed in California and operated by a civilian contractor working for the U.S. Army. SIAD is engaged in the open burning of munitions, a process that releases many know toxins into the air, including heavy metals, dioxin, PCB, and fiberglass. For more than 30 years, Sierra Army Depot has been exploding and burning millions of pounds of unwanted bombs, bullets, rocket engines and other munitions in open pits. Yearly, more than 53 million pounds of explosives are detonated.

The open-pit detonation method sometimes results in 'misfires' where a pit stack was commanded to detonate from the manned command bunker but failed to do so. In the case of a misfire, which can occur due to either electrical or mechanical failures in the remote detonation system or the stack itself, the pit stack must somehow be inspected and rendered safe to approach before workers can re-rig the detonation/firing system.

Standard procedure for pit recovery after a misfire mandates a 'stand-down' wait time to ensure the pit does not detonate due to a 'slow burn' or a fire in the stack, and at some point in time a worker must approach the pit to remove the blasting caps and render the stack safe for approach by the rest of the crew. This is obviously dangerous and time consuming work and provided an excellent opportunity for a robotic system to improve efficiency and safety for the workers at Sierra.

The depot operates an incinerator that is used for thermal treatment of small caliber ammunition items containing propellants and explosives and disassembled munitions components such as fuses and detonators. Burning is restricted to days when the wind blows between 3 and 30 miles per hours, thus carrying toxins downwind into Nevada at least 15 miles and as far as 40 miles from the explosion sites. Nevada State Health Division want to determine if this practice is safe for Nevada residents living nearby the Herlong, California facility and especially the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation, located only 15 miles west of the open burn and detonation facility.

In 1993, the Nevada Division of Environmental Quality opposed all open burning at Sierra but lacked the legal authority to stop it.

In February 2000, Nevada's United States Senator Harry Reid wrote a letter to Jeffrey D. Koplan, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), requesting an immediate investigation into the possible existence of a cancer cluster around Sierra Army Depot

In late November 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency required Lassen County officials to reopen a permit process to better ensure air pollution controls at the Sierra Army Depot facility. EPA officials said, the current permit issued in May 1998 fails to assure compliance with several requirements of the Clean Air Act. In September 2001 Lassen County air pollution control officials refused to exempt Sierra from federal clean air laws, placing the depot's ordnance disposal operations on hold.

Environmentalists, Native Americans, and rural residents filed a lawsuit against Sierra Army Depot accusing them of "negligently and carelessly" conducting the open burning and detonations of munitions. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, said the explosions and burning of munitions have spewed toxic clouds into the air and contaminated the soil and water. The depot intends to comply with the Final Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Hazardous Waste Combustors and with MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) standards.

The Depot has also been used for the open burning of solid fuel from retired Minuteman missile. In 1990 the United Technology Corporation moved most of its open burning operation to Sierra when regulators shut down the burning of old Minuteman rocket fuel at its Coyote, California facility in the hills above San Jose. Nevada officials objected at the time.

In 1995, the Defense Closure and Realignment Commission recommended to the President and Congress that the Sierra Army Depot (SIAD) be realigned. Under the BRAC 1995 realignment decision, the depot's long-term ammunition storage mission was reduced, and the depot's main mission became the disassembly and destruction of conventional ammunition. The change in mission resulted in the reassignment of most of the depot's 400 military personnel. SIAD's retained present mission is to provide high quality and cost effective operations in the demilitarization of munitions, operational project stocks mission and the static storage of ores. As a result of the 1995 BRAC action, 4,388 acres of land have been declared excess.

Amedee Airfield is in excellent condition. In early 1998, the Nevada Air National Guard began using the airfield. The Guard will construct a 2,500 square feet secure storage area and install an AWOS system. Eventually, the Guard plans to re-certify the instrument approach at the airfield. The runway is 7,168 feet long, 150 feet wide with marginal Army Combat System lighting, and limited electronic landing aid equipment. It was resurfaced in 1996. The LRA has hired a contractor to assess the feasibility of converting the airfield to civilian reuse. Proposed use of this parcel includes, use as a civilian airport facility, airport-related industrial uses, and general industrial uses.

The undeveloped surrounding areas make this an ideal location for new industries. The parcel contains 2300+ acres available for development. A parcel of vacant land containing 640+ acres has been transferred to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The proposed use is construction of a facility to house 1200 inmates. This will provide approximatly 500 jobs during construction and approximately 300 permanent jobs at completion.

Located 55 miles north east of Reno, NV; and 40 miles south west of Susanville, CA. Sierra Army Depot is in the highest desert plain east of the Sierra Nevada mountains at an elevation of 4,200 feet. The high desert plain is only sparsley develped. It is best characterized as having flat or gently rolling terrain dominated by sagebrush. The Honey Lake Valley is immediately east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The mountains form a barrier to storm systems that moving eastward from the Pacific. Located in the rain shadow of the mountain range, the valley climate is arid, with low reletive humidity and precipitation. Annual precipitation is low, averaging 5.6 inches. Temperatures remain moderate in summer and winter.

The base is located in an arid area, adjacent to two railroad lines -- the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads, which merged in July 1995. There are 59 miles of railroad track on the base. The main base covers 32,292 acres including 165 units of housing, 3 schools, credit union, barbershop, theater, chapel, an airfield with a 7,168 foot runway, and some administration buildings. The "industrial" portion of the base, which will be retained by the Army, includes several very large warehouses. The Army also owns a 4,030-acre parcel on a mountainside, which is separated from the main base by land owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It is currently used for ammunition demolition. The base also includes the 60,000-acre Honey Lake, which at one time belonged to the State of California. The State retains reversionary rights to the property and the State Lands Commission, in a letter dated September 11, 1996, and has agreed to accept the land following the successful completion of environmental restoration.

The area directly outside of the gate of Sierra Army Depot is the unincorporated community of Herlong. This is composed of several small businesses and West Patton Village, a 1950 Wherry housing project for SIAD employees. This contains 155 homes and several hundred residents.

As of mid-2001 SIAD employed a workforce of about 570 people. The Depot has 1,177 buildings totaling 5,518,516 square feet of floor space, and covers an area of 96,792 acres. SIAD has more than 3.6 million square feet of improved hardstand storage areas. Having ample storage space with virtually unlimited room to expand for future projects, SIAD provides free asset storage for active customers.

In 1993, SIAD was designated as the Army's Center of Technical Excellence for Operational Project Stocks. SIAD is home to the three largest Operational Project Stocks in the Army: Inland Petroleum Distribution System, Water Support System, and Force Provider. In addition, SIAD is home for other Operational Project Stocks including: Deployable Medical Systems - Non-Medical Equipment, Army Field Feeding Systems, Large Area Maintenance Shelters, Landing Mat Sets, and Bridging.

SIAD was awarded the Value Engineering Commander's Excellence Award for government owned, government operated facilities in fiscal year 1998. SIAD earned the award for exceeding the Value Engineering program goal by 270%, for a total cost savings of $3,773,000. Another of SIAD's efforts resulted in the design and building of container rotation devices which significantly reduced the costs associated with container movement through each repair station.

SIAD's high-desert location provides ideal conditions for storing Operational Project Stocks for extended periods of time. Pacific air that moves into the region loses most of its moisture before reaching the Honey Lake Valley, resulting in an average yearly high temperature of 66.9 degrees and a low of 36.4 degrees. Average yearly precipitation is 7.49 inches, with an average yearly humidity of only 30.96. SIAD has ready access to all west coast ports. The Depot is connected by several all-weather highways, has an internal rail system linked with two transcontinental rail lines, and has a 7,100-foot runway that accommodates up to C-5A aircraft.

Repair facilities located at SIAD include the management of the Inland Petroleum Distribution Systems; Water Support Systems; Force Provider; Army Field Feeding Systems; Large Area Maintenance Shelters; Landing Mat Sets; Bridging; and Reserve Component Hospital Detachment Associated Support Items of Equipment (non-medical). The activities at SIAD include receipt, storage, and care of supplies in storage, repair, assembly, disassembly, and shipment of major and secondary items for all systems.

SIAD also receives, issues, stores, renovates, and demilitarizes (destroys) ammunition. Since the decision of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 1995 to realign the Depot's ammunition functions, most operations involve the disposal of obsolete or outdated munitions. Three facilities are identified specifically for demilitarization of ammunition at SIAD. The deactivation furnace is an incinerator that can demilitarize small arms ammunition, primers, fuses, and boosters. The Depot has approval from the state of California to demilitarize up to 0.50 caliber rounds in the deactivation furnace. As such, two general purpose buildings are used to download and pull apart ammunition for demilitarization. They are equipped with intrusion detection systems and rapid response deluge systems for safety.

SIAD is licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to receive, store, issue, renovate, and demilitarize (disassemble) depleted uranium rounds. SIAD has the largest open burn/open detonation capacity in the United States. Fourteen pits, permitted by the state of California, can detonate up to 10,000 pounds net explosive weight per pit. The Depot's demilitarize grounds are also able to burn materials up to 100,000 pounds net explosive weight. The open detonation pits are also used to dispose of large rocket motors with a 160,000-pound net explosive weight capacity for the pit area. The large open-burn/open-detonation capability of the Depot provides the Department of Defense and government contractors with the ability to destroy large rocket motors at a lower cost than any other location. SIAD takes every step possible to be a good neighbor and operates under all local, state, and federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations to get the job done with minimal environmental impact.

BRAC 2005

In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Sierra Army Depot by relocating Storage to Tooele Army Depot, NV and Demilitarization to Crane Army Ammunition Activity, IN, and McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, OK. Capacity and capability for storage existed at numerous munitions sites. To reduce redundancy and remove excess from the Industrial Base, the realignment would allow DoD to create centers of excellence and remove inefficiencies.

The total estimated one-time cost to the Department of Defense to implement this recommendation would be $33.4M. The net of all costs and savings to the Department during the implementation period would be a cost of $7.2M. Annual recurring savings to the Department after implementation would be $7.5M with a payback expected within 7 years. The net present value of the costs and savings to the Department over 20 years would be a savings of $66.7M. Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 17 jobs (12 direct jobs and 5 indirect jobs) over the period 2006-2011 in the Susanville, CA Micropolitan Statistical Area (0.1 percent). This recommendation would require spending approximately $0.3M for environmental compliance activities.

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