East Bay Remains Home To Military Outpost, Is It Safe?

CONCORD (CBS 5) — The Bay Area is not widely known as a strategic military outpost. But perceptions can be deceiving, as CBS 5 discovered. Case in point: The former Concord Naval Weapons Station.

Denise Perry lives in the small East Bay community of Clyde, right next door to the site and has been wondering what’s going on there. “What are they hauling, what are they doing?” she said.

Military weapons, including nuclear weapons, used to be stored in the hundreds of bunkers that dot the old base, but that was a long time ago. “We were told all the ammo explosives everything had been emptied. All the bunkers have been emptied,” Perry said.

But now Perry and her neighbors are not so sure. “There are trucks still coming in and out explosive signs on the trucks the trains,” she said.

The military has put up wooden slats over the fence to block the view. Security is high. Cameras are everywhere and trucks and rail cars leave the facility in the middle of the night. “Usually it’s between 12 and 4 am,” she said.

The former Naval Weapons Station, 5,000 acres south of Highway 4, has been shut down for years. But north of the highway is still a very active military base. It’s now called Military Ocean Terminal Concord (MOTCO), and its being run by the U.S. Army.

Believe it or not, military weapons are still being shipped through here, more than 50 million pounds of bullets, bombs and rockets last year alone. “It includes anything from grenades, any caliber of weapon, small missiles, incendiary devices,” confirmed U.S. Army Commander Chris Hart.

He said there are no more nuclear weapons passing through the base, and what comes in and out of this facility doesn’t stay long.

“You can see as you look out here the berms there and the bunkers there by the rail lines. That is where we temporarily put ammunition while it’s waiting for its onward movements,” Hart said.

The ordnance comes in by ship and goes out mostly by rail, and vice versa. “For the last mission we moved about 1,000 containers full of ammunition,” said Hart.

Chopper 5 caught the action recently, as dozens of containers were lifted onto waiting rail cars, all the work done not by the Army but by private contractors.

“We have bonded, licensed people who come in and take it out,” Hart said.

And then the cargo moves, just like any other freight, west to Martinez, across the Benicia Bridge and north to Fairfield, Sacramento and beyond. Other trains go east through Pittsburg, Antioch and Stockton. “This is a lot more routine than the average citizen might think, but it is extremely safe,” said Commander Hart.

But one expert is not so sure. “After 9/11 all this needs to be looked at much more carefully,” said rail security consultant Fred Millar.

He said one problem is that the military cargo often goes unattended. “There’s a chance that because of the regular demands of the railroad that just gets left sitting around,” Millar said.

What concerns Millar even more is something else CBS 5 discovered during the interview with Commander Hart. To our astonishment, we saw an Amtrak passenger train traveling right through the high security base.

It’s Amtrak’s San Joaquin line that starts in Oakland. Trains make stops throughout the East Bay before heading toward the Central Valley. CBS 5 rode one of the trains, getting on at the Martinez station.

The train passed the Army’s bunkers, which routinely contain military explosives. “Obviously that is a security risk. What if a terrorist were to try to arrange for the Amtrak train to get stopped in the military base,” he said. Yet no one on board our train seemed to have a clue.

CBS 5 asked Amtrak about that but they wouldn’t comment, referring us instead to the company that owns the tracks, Union Pacific.

“Amtrak is a partner of ours. They lease track space from us,” said Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt.

He admits in this case Amtrak and the U.S. Army are sharing tracks. “In terms of the Amtrak operators I am not aware of how that is structured. I know on the Union Pacific side we train our employees heavily,” Hunt said. But he added: “I am not able to go into detail for obvious security reasons.”

“What that means of course is no accountability on what their doing,” said Millar.

Back in Clyde, Denise Perry couldn’t agree more: “We need to know as citizens here. If they do have explosives I would just really like them to be truthful to us.”

Editor’s Note: Federal and local authorities are aware of MOTCO and the fact that Amtrak passenger trains regularly run through the base. This information is not classified nor secret. We are highlighting what experts consider to be a security problem to raise the awareness of local residents and Amtrak riders.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  • Karl

    Interesting information. It is good to keep vigilant on our gov’t agencies to make sure they are doing their jobs. BUT let’s not get overly carried away by the terrorism thing. Could it happen that a group hijacks an Amtrak train and breaks into the military base and steals/blows up ammunition? Yes. But I’d bet they couldn’t bring the ammunition anywhere important in anything approaching significant quantities without the military stopping them first. Much more worrying is if they were to take over an Amtrak train, full of civilians, anywhere, period. Let’s not disrupt Amtrak lines and public transit in general because we are afraid of a near non-issue. And let’s not start security screening for rail, high speed or not, that would dissuade Americans from taking this lower-carbon transit option, unless there is a demonstrated need and not just some fear mongering.

    • Jessica

      Good points, Karl. ::rolls eyes at whiny resident::

  • Gary Callihan

    You newspaper dolts are just promoting hype and conjecture. None of this is new information. You also have no idea of the full scope of security. The range of security protocols will not be revealed to you because you do not have the “need to know”! As a retired federal employee, having worked for the Dept. of Energy in the “Livermore domain”, I can tell you that this type of rhetorical drivel is simply a reflection of the lack of education, or the inability to embrace some degree of ethical journalism. Oh, I live in Bay Point and do not understand why you are pandering to a whiny resident of Clyde. The whole article was sad, sick, and worthless.

  • Doc

    I have to agree with Mr. Callihan. This article should never have been written. It is just more liberal rhetoric and hype that really has no place in the real world.
    Another abuse of the press and jounalists. Freedom of the press doesn’t mean that you should be writing about things tha concern where weapons may or may not be stored, or about troop movements, or statagies.
    It is the press that continues to feed our advisaries our military secrets and our security. It is the press that continues to make things that should be left unsaid said. It is the pres that allows things like thins to be writtne nd distributed just so they can get a knee jerk rection from the the public. I guess you do this because you are in a dying industry. I also believe that most of your reporters have a liberal agenda that only hurts the greater good. Education a nd history has shown that repeating the same things and expecting a different result is just insanity. Remember the saying “Lose lips sink ships” ? Well the same principal applies to the press but now on a much larger scale. Keep printing your BS and keep telling the advisaries where we keep thngs and what is supose to be happening in plain sight but out of view and keep it fresh in your memory so when the advisaries strike our soil and are ahead in the game you won’t have to ask…. How did they know what to do or where to strike, and why so many are wounded and dead.? Because you will already have the answer. The blood is on your hands.

  • tn

    For every Yin, there’s a Yang. If anything were to tragically happen, the press would say “I told you so.” The government would say they were “caught by surprise.” The average citizen would say it’s the fault of the press journalists and the out of average citizen would ask, “How could this happen?” The Democrats would blame the Republicans and vice versa. Everyone will point a finger and no one will accept the blame. An incident happened in September 11 some years back and Americans all reacted this same way. What would be different the next time?

  • Don Sobrero

    Gee, why not tell the world!

  • nicole

    As a MARINE WIFE and a former employee of a military base it is a known fact that things that occure on a military base are NOT told to the public for a good reason!! The Civilians and public community that live around a base DOES NOT NEED TO KNOW what goes on on that base!! If they want to know what goes on a Military base then they should have joined the MILITARY!! If the GOVERNMENT wants civillians or the public community to know whats going on they will tell you!! SO STOP WHINING ABOUT WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT A MILITARY BASE BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT WILL NOT TELL YOU!!!!

  • Leo

    The weapon station was long there before civilians moved in…..move out…..don’t be surprise what other types of lines your house sits on such as gas lines,oil lines,etc. It is well monitored, just go inside and you will find out.

  • RLH100

    Hum… War in Iraq is over. Military Ocean Terminal Concord is a major shipping terminal for the Army. Right next door is a secure ammo storage depot. Wonder what the are shipping through there…
    I agree with a previous comment. The people moved near the base. What do they expect. I also believe America should not get rid of all of it military bases in the US. And I am a peace loving liberal.
    As to the containers being shipped I doubt they contain ammo. Or of they do they have a millitary escort. My guess is that the military is very careful about how they move munitions around. And if Amtrak broke down I am sure they would quickly have welcoming party in green fatigues. I may not approve of the recent wars but I do believe that the Army is competent in the job they do.

  • Casey Caster

    That’s cool. I hav been driving by there on my way to work and I don’t see half the things that Denise Perry says she sees. Where is she getting her information?

    • R.J.

      I ride my bike out there after midnight almost every night in the spring and summer just to get exercise. I’ve witnessed all of this and more. It’s not every night though. Maybe a few times a month and that’s it.

      The security is heavy. I’ve been stopped on my bike in Clyde by both the Sheriffs and Military Police telling me I can’t ride on Port Chicago Highway in Clyde. I always get in arguments with them and tell them to mind their own business because I’m on county property not federal. I stand up to these guys all the time and they eventually gave up after a couple years of trying to tell me where I can and can’t ride my bike.

  • Phillip O'Conner

    I was stationed there and I can tell you that base is important to the WEst Coast. It’s Nobody business what is at the base The Army can do what they are trained for Just like I was when I was there, we did our job and things got done.
    The Navy did it much better and saved alot of lives in their day so let the army do theirs and just leave them alone.
    I think this lady is making all this up to get the base fully closed and she was a demostrtor back in the day.

  • ns

    I agree with Doc and other comments. Security must be kept secret for obvious reasons. I know an employee on one of these trains and there are security measures in place (I don’ know details) that the puclc is not aware. We need to let the Army and others do their jobs.
    I think this bored, nosey, whiny woman wants attention for herself. If she were truely concerned for public safety there are other avenues she could take without the media attention.

  • Bloato

    Let’s see. Small arms ammo? You can buy it all at Big5/Walmart/local gun shop. Artillery shells? Very heavy and almost useless to the average trespasser. Missiles? Also heavy- very hard to conceal while trying to sneak off base. YOU infiltrate an active base in a vehicle capable of carrying anything worthwhile? Not without getting caught. Ever try to stop a train? Didn’t think so. Could a real security catastrophe happen? Perhaps in a movie. This is a military controlled area, and the items dealt with there are not really that sensitive. A terrorist getting an Amtrak to stop on those tracks might have himself a few hostages, but he’ll gain nothing but fresh holes in the head. NON STORY

  • Sue

    The others have addressed the content of the article in large (though I do wonder what Fred Millar’s qualifications are).

    I do wonder who taught the author/editor English. They’re/their/there. Learn it, love it. I could do better when I was in middle school.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Guide To The Holidays
Shine A Light On The Holiday Season With ‘Giving Tuesday’

Listen Live