Brownfields Redevelopment

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.

Brownfield Fundamentals: Finding the (Not So) Hidden Gems In Your Community

Brownfields are everywhere. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are nearly 500,000 brownfield sites across the country, including approximately 10,000 in Wisconsin. In your community, it might be the abandoned gas station that closed long ago, or the textile mill on the edge of town that was sold off and is slowly ceasing operations, or even the 500-acre former auto assembly plant that was once the lifeblood of a thriving community.

Whatever the property, whether commercial or industrial, if the reuse of the property is hindered by suspected environmental contamination, it’s a brownfield. But with support, vision and some imagination, that brownfield property might be a diamond in the rough; and redeveloping that property may have benefits that extend far beyond the property line including:

  • Neighborhood revitalization
  • Increased tax revenues
  • Local economic growth and investment
  • Removal of blighted properties and harmful contamination from the environment

Take Stock

Wisconsin is unquestionably a beautiful state with abundant natural resources. Waterways, for example, are a common feature in many towns. Decades ago, community leaders recognized that developing businesses and industries near those waterways was the key to the community’s success.

Fast forward to today and those waterfront properties that have seen better days could once again play a significant role in reshaping your community.

Nearby natural resources may not be a town’s only selling point. What other features could be improved? A downtown business district with a shuttered storefront? An idled site that’s on the main road into your community?

Brownfields are opportunities in the making. The hidden gems are waiting to be discovered. Redeveloping a brownfield site can seem like a daunting task. For help creating an inventory of potential cleanup and redevelopment sites in your community, please visit the Brownfields Inventory Tool, offered by the Technical Assistance for Brownfields Program at Kansas State University.

Take Action

When a community (local government unit) takes ownership of a brownfield property, a variety of cleanup options and strategies exist that wouldn’t otherwise be available to the private sector.

If you’ve identified a potential site for environmental cleanup, but have lingering questions about the next steps, request a Green Team meeting with the brownfield specialists at the DNR. The DNR can offer guidance regarding:

  • Property acquisition
  • Environmental liability
  • Financial grant and loan award options

A DNR Green Team meeting brings the right people to the table to discuss issues, answer key questions and give everyone a better understanding of the cleanup and redevelopment project.

When your community is ready to take advantage of those hidden gems, the DNR is here to provide the help you need.

DNR Awards Brownfields Grant To City Of Beaver Dam

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has awarded a Brownfields Grant to the City of Beaver Dam to assist with the investigation of potential environmental contamination at the site of a former auto dealership and repair shop.

The grant is from the DNR’s Wisconsin Assessment Monies program, which provides contractor services worth up to $35,000 for the environmental assessment of eligible brownfields sites.

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Remediation and Redevelopment Program 128(a) Year-End Report Available

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR)’s Remediation and Redevelopment (RR) Program’s year-end report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now available.

The CERCLA Section 128(a) Grant Final Report, for the reporting period of Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021, highlights work undertaken and completed within the latest funding year.

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DNR Awards Brownfields Grant To City Of Altoona

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today announced the department awarded a Brownfields Grant to the City of Altoona.

The grant is from the DNR’s Wisconsin Assessment Monies program, which provides contractor services worth up to $35,000 for the environmental assessment and cleanup of eligible brownfields sites.

Brownfields are abandoned, idle and underused commercial or industrial properties where reuse is stalled by potential contamination. Brownfields vary in size, location, age and past use; they can be anything from a 500-acre former automobile assembly plant to a small, abandoned gas station.

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Deadline For State Letter Of Acknowledgement For EPA MARC Grants Nov. 17

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now accepting applications for FY22 Brownfields Multipurpose, Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) & Cleanup (MARC) Grants. The deadline for applications is Dec. 1, 2021.

If your community or organization intends to apply for an FY22 MARC Grant, the U.S. EPA requires grant applicants – not including tribal entities – to obtain a state acknowledgement letter from the Wisconsin DNR.

The letter acknowledges that the state is aware of the community or organization’s application for a federal grant and intent to conduct brownfield assessment or cleanup activities.

The DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment (RR) Program suggests making your request for a state acknowledgement letter no later than Nov. 17, 2021 to allow staff adequate time to draft and deliver the letter.

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DNR Awards Brownfields Grant To Village Of Johnson Creek

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today announced the department awarded a Brownfields Grant to the Village of Johnson Creek.

The financial award is from the DNR’s Wisconsin Assessment Monies program, which provides contractor services worth up to $35,000 for the environmental assessment and cleanup of eligible brownfields sites.

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Public Input Opportunity Ends Soon for Publication RR-619, Guidance: General Liability Clarification Letters

The public comment period ends next week on October 28, 2021 for the publication RR-619, Guidance: General Liability Clarification Letters.

The document can be found at the RR Program’s Public Notices & Guidance web page under the “Program Guidance” tab. Comments may be submitted through Oct. 28, 2021 to Michael Prager at Michael.Prager@wisconsin.gov or to DNRRRGuidance@wisconsin.gov.

The guidance document describes when general liability clarification letters, as defined in Wis. Stat. § 292.55, may be helpful and how parties can request a general liability clarification letter from the DNR.

Public Input Opportunity – Publication RR-619, Guidance: General Liability Clarification Letters

The Remediation and Redevelopment (RR) Program is now seeking input on the publication RR-619, Guidance: General Liability Clarification Letters.

The guidance document describes when general liability clarification letters, as defined in Wis. Stat. § 292.55, may be helpful and how parties can request a general liability clarification letter from the DNR.

The publication can be found at the RR Program’s Public Notices & Guidance web page under the “Program Guidance” tab.

Comments may be submitted through October 28, 2021 to Michael Prager at Michael.Prager@wisconsin.gov or to DNRRRGuidance@wisconsin.gov.

Hourly Fee Increase For VPLE

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) increased the hourly fee for the review of technical documents submitted through the Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE) program. Wis. Admin. Code § NR 750.07(2) requires the DNR to calculate the hourly billing rate each year.

The new hourly rate is $110, an increase from the $105 rate that has been in effect since 2014. The new fee took effect on July 1, 2021.

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