Brownfields Fundamentals: DNR’s Ready For Reuse Program Can Fund Your Community’s Environmental Cleanup Project

If you’re a local government professional but haven’t played a role in the environmental cleanup and redevelopment of a blighted property, the term “brownfield” may not be completely familiar. But chances are good that there’s one or more of them in your community.

By definition, a brownfield is a former industrial or commercial site where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination. In your community, that may be a shuttered gas station on Main Street, or a former lumber or textile mill on the edge of town. It’s the site you often drive past and think to yourself, “We should do something about that. That property has potential.”

To be sure, most land in communities – large or small – is not contaminated and is suited for development. But even perceived environmental contamination can present barriers to land reuse. It is important to know that even when land does have environmental contamination, it often can be cleaned up and redeveloped at a reasonable cost and in a timely manner.

Redeveloping brownfield properties helps protect public health, reduces blight and enhances community safety. In many cases, it also creates jobs, generates local tax revenues, and may have positive impacts on nearby commercial and residential development.

Among the variety of resources and assistance that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can bring to the table to help towns and cities across the state address brownfield cleanup and redevelopment challenges is the DNR’s Ready for Reuse program.

Ready for Reuse is a program managed by the DNR and funded through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant. Since the DNR began offering the program in 2004, Ready for Reuse has funded 39 cleanup projects in Wisconsin to the tune of more than $11 million in awards. Ready for Reuse can be an attractive funding option for many projects, with flexible repayment schedules, no interest terms, and the possibility of 30-percent loan forgiveness.

Ready for Reuse offers financial assistance to local governments, tribes and non-profits at brownfield sites that are currently going through the Wis. Admin. Code NR chs. 700-799 cleanup process. Ready for Reuse can also be leveraged at sites that previously received case closure with the DNR but have residual contamination that needs to be managed during construction.

The DNR’s redevelopment specialists welcome the opportunity to meet with you and your key partners to discuss issues, answer questions and give everyone a better understanding of how the DNR can partner with your community to help reach your redevelopment goals. DNR staff offer expert advice regarding environmental liability protections, regulatory processes and financial award programs available for the investigation, remediation and redevelopment of a contaminated property.

To find out if a Ready for Reuse loan is right for your community, or other ways that the DNR can assist with your cleanup and redevelopment efforts, reach out to request a Green Team meeting.

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