Projects Progress at Strategic MOTCO

Published Sept. 18, 2017

CONCORD – Approaching the Army’s Military Ocean Terminal Concord, you would never know that this rural stretch of land some 30 miles east of San Francisco bordering Suisun Bay is the base that serves as the Defense Department’s West Coast platform for supplying ammunition to U.S. forces in Asia.

MOTCO, as the base is more commonly known, is the military’s only facility on this side of the continent for doing that, underscoring the importance of three San Francisco District construction projects currently underway at the 115-acre complex, whose public profile is inversely related to its importance to national security, given that, as the base’s website says, it “has the capability to act as the strategic launch platform for the West Coast.”  

Across the base, the Corps is overseeing the construction of a new police dispatch center, a new maintenance facility that will service vehicles and train cars used to move ordinance, as well as a means to protect containers loaded with ammunition from being struck by a rare instance of lightening and perhaps repeating an historic disaster.  “That would be catastrophic if it were to happen but it is extremely rare,” said Army Capt. Chris Garceau, MOTCO’s project engineer.   

Even so, Garceau and others working on the projects are leaving nothing to chance, quick to remind a visitor that this base was the site of the worst domestic war-related disaster during World War II:  In 1944, more than three million pounds of explosives detonated while being loaded onto ships destined for the Pacific, killing more than 300 people.  A memorial stands dedicated to those who died in the explosion.  But the monument, which is now a national park, remains one the most inaccessible in the country given its location on a secure base.  Those interested can visit but are required to make a reservation. 

The inherent risks involved in moving ammunition on and off MOTCO’s three piers as well as onto an Army rail system connecting to public railways have implications beyond this base, part of the reason why construction of the new police dispatch center is moving ahead full steam.  “The idea is that MOTCO would eventually be self-sufficient with its own police force on land and on the water,” thereby requiring more space for staffing as the Army begins to assume full responsibility for operations,” said Resident Engineer David W. Franzen.      

The projects being overseen by the Corps are slated to be completed by  next June and several more are in the pipeline.