- Historic California
Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
- Sierra Army Depot
- (Sierra Ordnance
Depot, Amedee Army Airfield, Honey Lake Fight Strip)
Ordnance Depot circa late 1940s
- 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.
- 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, Nevadas 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
- 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
- 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 Army Air Field 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
- 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
- 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.
- Today, SIAD serves as the U.S. Army's
Rapid Delivery Logistics Facility and a DOD strategic power projection
support platform providing world-wide, world class logistics
support in the form of maintenance, assembly, and containerization
as the Army's only (CITE) Center of Industrial Technical Excellence
for critical operational project stocks including deployable
medical systems, medical supplies, petroleum and water systems,
aviation systems, Force provider and other items. Store and caretake
demilitarization account ammunition. On order, become the Center
of Industrial Technical Excellence for Resource Recovery, Recycle
and Reuse (R3) ammunition demilitarization.
- In these days of change and increased
competition, Sierra has adopted a competitive corporate philosophy
with the vision: "To be the preferred source of war reserves
and remain the Army's center of excellence for all project stocks
and be the recognized leader in munitions demilitarization."
The aggressive and diversified workforce, known as Team Sierra,
represents one of the best in the Department of Defense. They
are committed to continuing to provide the best quality products
and services to their customers, as they have done for nearly
- From its beginnings, with General Order
No. 9, signed by General George C. Marshall on February 2, 1942,
Sierra Army Depot has established an enviable record of service
mainly because of a most important resource--its people. Sierrans
have made major contributions to our Armed Forces and our country
since the establishment of the Army installation.
- Extract, US Army Air Forces Directory
of Air Fields (January 1945)
- Known Units at Sierra Army Depot:
- World War II
- 68th Italian QM Service Company