NEOEDD awarded $400,000 grant to revitalize contaminated properties

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer May 30, 2012 01:42 pm

The Northeast Oregon Economic Development District is among state and local entities in Oregon sharing more than $2.1 million in EPA Brownfields funding to help breathe new life into contaminated properties and revitalize former industrial sites. 

EPA Brownfields grants fund site assessments and site cleanups, supporting local efforts to clean up contamination or otherwise make land useable for housing, community space or commercial development.

The grants also provide often cash-strapped communities a much-needed boost to bring abandoned lands back into productive use.

The NEOEDD will get a $400,000 Community-wide Assessment Grant to inventory and prioritize Brownfield sites and conduct environmental site assessments on properties located throughout Baker, Union, and Wallowa counties in northeastern Oregon. This project will include community outreach and cleanup planning activities.

Brownfields are real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

The EPA says cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties protects the environment, reduces blight, and takes development pressures off green spaces and working lands. 

Lisa Dawson, NEOEDD’s executive director, said the EPA grants are typically awarded to municipalities and not regions. The $400,000 award is a first for NEOEDD.

She said a first step for her agency is formation of an advisory committee that will include members from the three-county area. Once the committee is in place, public meetings will be held and the process of formulating a list of properties eligible for help will begin. 

“We’ll invite people who have potential Brownfields, and we’ll do specific outreach to real estate agents,” she said.

Dawson said properties that may benefit include those contaminated by petroleum or chemical spills. They could include airports, sawmills, former dry cleaning establishments, and more.

She said that often, owners of contaminated properties have difficulty selling them, and the land has a tendency to go unused.

“This is to help private or public landowners get their land back into productivity,” she said.

At this early phase of the local effort, Dawson said she is interested in talking with people in the three-county area who are interested in serving on the advisory committee. People wanting to serve should contact her at 541-426-3598. 

Since its inception in 1995, EPA’s Brownfields Program has grown into a proven, results-oriented program that has changed the way contaminated property is perceived, addressed, and managed. 

EPA’s investment in the Brownfields Program has resulted in many accomplishments, including leveraging more than $14 billion in Brownfields cleanup and redevelopment funding from the private and public sectors and leveraging approximately 60,917 jobs. 

Other programs in Oregon receiving money include the Oregon Business Development Department, also known as Business Oregon, which will receive $700,000 in supplemental funding for its existing Revolving Loan Fund Grant. This funding will allow Business Oregon to continue making loans and providing sub-grants to eligible applicants to cleanup Brownfields throughout the state of Oregon, fostering environmental and economic redevelopment.  

The City of Eugene will receive a $680,200 Brownfields Assessment Coalition grant that will be used to establish a coalition with the City of Springfield and Lane County to develop a Brownfields inventory and conduct environmental site assessments within their three jurisdictions.

Also, the City of Troutdale will receive a $200,000 grant to perform an environmental site assessment and conduct community outreach and cleanup planning activities at the Troutdale Riverfront Redevelopment property at 302 NW 257th Way. The site, which sits on the bank of the Sandy River, operated as a slaughterhouse and rendering plant from 1901 to the late 1960s. .

Another Oregon recipient is the City of Vernonia, in line for a $200,000 Community-Wide Assessment grant which will be used to inventory Brownfield sites throughout the city, perform environmental site assessments, and conduct community outreach.