National Guard armory proposed on Hanford land

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 12, 2013 

The Washington National Guard is proposing to use 5,000 acres of Hanford land to develop an armory and training grounds.

It has requested a 25-year or longer license from the Department of Energy that would give it permission to use land on the southern end of Hanford. The acreage is immediately west of the Hanford Patrol Academy and HAMMER training center and east of Hanford's Route 10.

The proposal is part of a larger plan for closing down older armories that are more costly to maintain and could include classrooms, offices and storage in addition to land for training maneuvers, said Capt. Joseph Siemandel in Spokane.

The Guard would build helicopter landing pads and develop gravel roads and personnel staging areas, Major General Bret Daugherty said in a letter to DOE sent early this month. The gravel roads would be used for wheeled vehicles, but not heavy tracked equipment.

The location would provide opportunities for DOE and the National Guard to share training resources, the letter said. A memorandum of understanding would be developed to coordinate activities between the agencies.

"The opportunity to work with DOE is huge to us," Siemandel said.

The Guard already trains at DOE's HAMMER. There also is potential for the Guard to use the Hanford Patrol Training Academy, which includes weapons bunkers, a driving track, rifle ranges, a range instruction shooting simulator, classrooms and a live-fire shooting house on 7,500 acres. HAMMER has training structures such as a building with interchangeable mazes for search and rescue, a six-story building for rescue training and a pad with a propane-fueled fire.

An armory at Hanford would allow National Guard members from the Tri-City area to drill closer to home and might help with recruiting, Siemandel said.

The 5,000 acres the National Guard is interested in using are planned for industrial use when they are no longer needed by DOE. There are no Hanford facilities on the land, DOE spokesman Geoff Tyree said. Most of the 586-square-mile nuclear reservation is planned to be used for preservation and conservation.

An armory would be considered compatible with the industrial use called for in the Hanford Comprehensive Land Use Plan, Tyree said.

DOE will consider the request and prepare a National Environmental Policy Act study report, which the public may comment on when a draft is finished, he said.

There could be benefits for the Department of Energy and the Tri-Cities if a National Guard armory is developed, Tyree said. DOE sees the potential to share some of the $500,000 annual cost of maintaining the Hanford Patrol Academy. There also could be opportunities for the Hanford patrol and federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to use the National Guard facility.

DOE discussed the proposal Thursday with the city of Richland, the Tri-City Development Council and the tribes.

TRIDEC has just started looking at the proposal and its viability, said Gary Petersen, TRIDEC vice president of Hanford programs.

TRIDEC, working with Benton County, the city of Richland and the Port of Benton, already has requested 1,341 acres of Hanford land north of Richland on the northwest corner of Horn Rapids Road and Stevens Drive to be used for industrial development. DOE is evaluating that and additional acreage with the goal of studying the environmental impacts of transferring 1,341 acres.

The acreage could support new industry that would contribute to the tax base and employ an estimated 2,400 to 3,500 workers, helping create jobs as environmental cleanup at Hanford is completed, according to TRIDEC.

It's not clear how the National Guard proposal and TRIDEC request would affect each other, said Gary Ballew, economic development manager for the city of Richland.

Richland will need more information on the exact location of the acreage the National Guard is interested in, he said. The city also will need more information on what the National Guard would build, what employment it would offer, the duration of the license for the Hanford land and what would happen to the land after the license expires, he said.

No schedule for developing a possible armory at Hanford has been set, according to the National Guard.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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