A former demolition-debris dump site on Bend’s Westside and a former shooting range in Redmond are two of possibly several “brownfield” sites that could get a jump-start toward a new future through a $400,000 grant to Deschutes County announced Thursday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The county was among eight county and city governments in the Northwest to receive a total of $2.6 million from the EPA to assess, clean up and revitalize “brownfield” properties – former industrial or commercial sites that could need environmental clean-up but don’t fall into the more toxic and problematic category handled by Superfund regulations.
Nationally, 240 recipients in 45 states received the EPA’s Brownfields Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund and Cleanup (ARC) grants, which are used to conduct environmental assessments, cleanup planning, cleanup work and conduct community outreach.
According to Dennis McLerran, EPA regional administrator in Seattle, the Brownfields ARC grants target under-served and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods where environmental cleanups and new jobs are most needed. It’s estimated there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the nation whose expansion, redevelopment or reuse can boost local tax bases, facilitate job growth and take development pressures off of undeveloped, open land.
“We’ve seen Brownfield projects kick start impressive community re-development and revitalization,” said EPA’s McLerran. “By leveraging Brownfields funding to clean-up and reuse contaminated properties, communities can protect the environment, boost local economies and prevent sprawl.”
Half of Deschutes County’s funds are to be used for more than a dozen Phase I and Phase II environmental site assessments, as well as to build an inventory of brownfield sites and conduct community outreach. The other $200,000 will cover the same tasks at sites with possible petroleum contamination, such as from underground fuel storage tanks.
Deschutes County Principal Planner Peter Gutowsky said the first step is for the county and its cities to develop a cooperative, intergovernmental agreement, hopefully this summer, then dive into creating an active inventory of “sites that are identified as having some form of contamination.”
“A technical committee will be created to evaluate the inventory, in concert with community conversations that provide the basis for prioritizing those sites that are in the best position to get redeveloped or reused for contributing to the tax rolls or other public purposes,” Gutowsky said.
“It’s an exciting opportunity,” he said, to inventory, then prioritize which sites have the most potential for remediation and new uses. “Once you have community buy-in, there are other funds at the federal level, and with Business Oregon that can help provide additional leverage” to make such projects happen, Gutowsky added.