Brownfields

A Nod to the DNR’s VPLE Program in Coverage of Oak Creek’s New Lake Vista Park

Natural Resources Board tours Oak Creek

Oak Creek City Attorney Larry Haskin addresses the media and members of the Natural Resources Board during an August 2017 tour of Lake Vista Park in Oak Creek.

The city of Oak Creek plans to officially unveil its newest park this summer. It’s a prime location of nearly 100-acres that overlooks Lake Michigan and is the former site of a chemical plant that left a history of contamination when it closed.

The decades-long environmental cleanup was completed in 2014 using the DNR’s Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE) program. The VPLE program provided an incentive for the industrial owner to complete a cleanup that allowed the city to transform this former lakefront industrial site into a stunning new park with majestic views of the nearby lake.

You can listen to the story by Milwaukee Public Radio.

For more information about the DNR’s VPLE program, please contact Michael.Prager@wisconsin.gov.

 

EPA ARC Grants Preparation & BUILD Act

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields program provides direct grant funding to local governments and other entities for environmental assessment activities, cleanup work, and the capitalization of revolving loan funds. New grant application guidelines are announced each year in the fall, typically in October, and applicants usually have around eight weeks to complete and submit their application.

Competition for these grants is strong, and the total amount of funding available is limited to about $50 million nationwide each year. Many Wisconsin communities and the DNR have obtained brownfields grant funds from the EPA over the past 15 years.

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EPA Brownfields Grant Application Tips – June 6 Webinar

Every year, in the fall, the EPA offers a new opportunity for local governments and others to obtain grant funds for environmental assessments, revolving loan funds, and property cleanup work (“ARC”). It is good to get started early on your grant application package, well before the official EPA announcement is made in the fall.

One of the EPA’s national outreach and assistance contractors is hosting a free “head-start” grant writing webinar on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 | 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM CDT. The title of the webinar is “Writers of the Best ARC.” In addition to tried-and-true tips and techniques, along with hard lessons learned, the webinar is offering grant writing advice from expert grant writers from around the country.

Get a head start on the ARC grant application period, and learn about recent federal legislative changes that may affect the EPA guidelines this fall. Register at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/3941484594013599491

In addition, the EPA periodically hosts general grant award process webinars. More information on these presentations is available at https://www.epa.gov/grants/epa-grants-award-process-webinars.

Got Brownfields? Get a Green Team meeting!

meeting puzzle (transparent background)Teamwork can transform old, dilapidated industrial and commercial properties into economically and socially beneficial community assets. The DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment Program is willing and able to be on your local government team. We have experience with thousands of successful revitalization projects, we have grant and loan funding available, and we can help bring other key stakeholders to your table at any stage of the process. Contact us today to set up a Green Team meeting and get things going.

Umpire Process: Helping Local Governments Take Charge of Brownfields

Wisconsin local governments seeking to catalyze redevelopment by cleaning up local brownfields have a powerful tool in their toolkit. The state’s Local Government Unit (LGU) Negotiation and Cost Recovery law lets cities, villages, counties, and other LGUs identify parties that are responsible for contamination at LGU-owned sites and then recover cleanup costs from them. This self-contained process includes public input and encourages responsible parties to agree on sharing cleanup costs – saving time and money – with help from a DNR-appointed “umpire,” or facilitator.

LGUs can pursue this process alongside the state regulatory process for cleanup, which allows local leaders to gauge cost recovery prospects while during the remedial action planning phase. The cost recovery process, known informally as the “Umpire Process,” is available at properties owned (either entirely or partially) by the LGU.

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Free Professional Brownfields Assistance for Local Governments

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funds professional service providers around the country to help local governments and tribes affected by environmental issues at brownfield properties. These professionals are part of the Technical Assistance for Brownfields (TAB) program and serve as no-cost independent advisors and resource providers for community revitalization efforts.

Wisconsin is fortunate to have two very experienced and talented TAB service providers available to our communities. Margaret Renas, from the Chicago-based nonprofit Delta Institute, is a professional engineer with a great deal of environmental consulting and community redevelopment experience. Maggie Egbarts, from Kansas State University, is the TAB Coordinator for EPA Regions 5 and 7, and has many years of experience in environmental assessment, cleanup, regulatory compliance and revitalization activities.

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Wausau Riverfront Redevelopment: Grant Funding Assists in Completion of Riverfront Corridor

In late 2013, the city of Wausau received $151,171 in Ready for Reuse grant funding through Wisconsin DNR’s 104(k) revolving loan fund grant for a cleanup at 1010 North 1st Street. The property, one in a string of parcels, was identified along the Wisconsin River as part of a comprehensive riverfront redevelopment strategy. Since then, extensive work along the river corridor has occurred with the goal of bringing business and public access to what was once underused riverfront property.

The site’s history includes lumber production, manufacturing, scrap iron, and automobile parking and storage. The 3.9-acre property is one of six contiguous former industrial riverfront properties totaling 16 acres adjacent to the Wisconsin River that are planned for commercial, residential and/or recreational mixed use redevelopment known as the Riverfront Redevelopment Area.

Continue reading “Wausau Riverfront Redevelopment: Grant Funding Assists in Completion of Riverfront Corridor”

DNR, Wisconsin Communities Receive $2.9M in EPA Brownfields Awards for FY2018

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Remediation and Redevelopment Program – along with its seven regional planning commission partners – is the recipient of a $600,000 US EPA Brownfields Grant.

The Wisconsin Brownfields Coalition will use this money to continue the Wisconsin Assessment Monies (WAM) program which provides funding to aid local governments and other eligible applicants in assessing and investigating environmental contamination at brownfields sites throughout the state. The coalition will target closed and closing manufacturing facilities to assess potential environmental contamination that could complicate reuse of the properties.

In addition to the Wisconsin DNR’s award, several other Wisconsin communities and entities were awarded US EPA Brownfields Grants:

  • Stevens Point – $300,000
  • Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee – $900,000
  • Racine – $300,000
  • Manitowoc – $300,000
  • Manitowoc Community Development Authority – $200,000
  • Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission – $300,000

“Clearly there is no shortage of creativity, innovation and ingenuity when it comes to brownfields redevelopment projects in the great State of Wisconsin,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator and former Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. “EPA looks forward to expanding our work with our partners to redevelop brownfields so they can once again be thriving parts of their communities – spurring local economies with jobs and new businesses as well as generating tax revenues and spending.”

A full version of the US EPA press release can be found here.

TAB Program to Host May 9 Webinar on BUILD Act

The BUILD Act (Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development) was signed into law in March 2018 and is the first major legislative change to Brownfields since passage of the original statute in 2002. Specific changes include: increased eligibility for funding, additional liability protections, and changes to grant programs, just to name a few.

Join Kansas State University Technical Assistance to Brownfields Program for a free, National TAB webinar, on Wednesday, May 9 at 1:00 pm (Central), to hear about how the BUILD Act will improve the national brownfields program and support community brownfields revitalization. The webinar will feature officials from U.S. EPA, a local community, national brownfield experts, and the coordinator of the National Brownfields Coalition. Click here to register and visit the event web page to get more information about this May 9 BUILD Act webinar.

Engaging Real Estate Lenders in Brownfields Redevelopment Projects

Financing can make or break a redevelopment project; however, lenders are often wary of the environmental liabilities associated with brownfields redevelopments. In order to encourage lenders to finance these projects, Wisconsin state law exempts lenders from environmental liabilities for a range of lending activities, if they meet certain statutory conditions.

In its 2015 report, Investing in Wisconsin, the Brownfields Study Group (BSG) recognized that Wisconsin’s liability exemption for lenders had recently turned 20 years old, and noted that the lending industry had evolved significantly over those two decades. The BSG recommended that a subset of the group meet with stakeholders to examine whether the exemption remains useful and relevant in light of current lending practices and regulations.

Between May 2016 and April 2017, a group of Wisconsin DNR personnel, lenders, attorneys, and trade organizations met five times to discuss, in a public forum, the various components of the state’s lender liability exemption and analyze whether the current exemption meets the needs of lenders and the public. In April 2017, this group of professionals formed a list of recommendations for the BSG, which will consider the proposed items at an upcoming public meeting.

During this effort, the Wisconsin DNR renewed its outreach efforts and strengthened partnerships with the lending community. The Wisconsin DNR reviewed its lender factsheets and updated and republished several guidance documents. The Wisconsin Bankers Association helped the Wisconsin DNR reach the WBA members by authoring informational articles in its membership publications and by distributing Wisconsin DNR’s guidance at its compliance forums, and including information in teaching materials for its compliance courses. Wisconsin DNR staff continue to reach out to bankers and lenders at statewide conferences and via Green Team meetings.