Local Government Issues

DNR’s Database Of Remediation And Redevelopment Activities Can Help Local Governments

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) maintains a public database of locations with remediation and redevelopment activities in Wisconsin.

The database is referred to as the DNR’s Bureau of Remediation and Redevelopment Tracking System on the web. A visual display of much of the information is available on the web-based mapping system, RR Sites Map.

Over 95,000 properties are in included in the database. Contaminated sites (i.e., the physical area of environmental contamination) affect properties in all counties and in approximately 95% of all cities, towns and villages in Wisconsin. The system includes links to numerous letters, reports and other information about the properties.

The DNR encourages local governmental units to use the database and RR Sites Map to identify contaminated and cleaned up properties within their communities. Information from the database and RR Sites Map may be useful to local governments when:

  • Identifying potential health and safety concerns in the community
  • Evaluating potential real estate transactions (e.g., conducting due diligence activities prior to the initiation of condemnation, tax foreclosure and other property acquisitions efforts)
  • Considering issuance of permits or approving plans for development – this includes understanding the status of contamination at sites where the cleanup is complete because residual contamination may affect the allowed uses and redevelopment options for a property, or require ongoing maintenance (e.g., caps over contaminated areas)
  • Reviewing proposed public works and utility projects to determine feasibility and whether contaminated material needs to be managed
  • Understanding the status of the property within the cleanup process, including what types of contamination is present, what needs to be done to satisfy regulatory requirements, and who is responsible for completing the necessary work

DNR staff are also available to help. Local governments can contact a brownfields specialist or schedule a “Green Team” meeting with DNR to discuss specific properties.

For more information about how to use the database, go to https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Brownfields/botwHelp.html

Now Available: Publication RR-0128, Green Team Assistance for Contaminated Properties

The publication RR-0128, Green Team Assistance for Contaminated Properties, is now posted and available online.

The document can be found here. Additional documents and guidance from the Remediation and Redevelopment Program may be found using the search tools available on the publications and forms webpage.

The purpose of the guidance is to provide information about DNR’s Green Team meetings, which are an effective and efficient way for local governments to evaluate options, plan for and work through a brownfield project.

Questions regarding this document may be submitted to Barry Ashenfelter at barry.ashenfelter@wisconsin.gov.

EPA brownfield grant applications may be due earlier this fall. Start working on yours soon.

DNR has learned that U.S. EPA may require FY20 brownfield grant applications to be submitted earlier than usual this year, so the grant process doesn’t overlap with preparations or participation at the 2019 National Brownfields Training Conference in Los Angeles, CA, December 11–13. There is no official decision yet, but release of the grant proposal guidelines and the subsequent proposal deadline could be moved up several weeks or more.

It is our understanding that the multipurpose grants available in the last round may not be offered this fall. It sounds like multipurpose and revolving loan fund (RLF) grants could alternate rounds and only be available bi-annually. If so, FY20 RLF grants should be available this fall.

Continue reading “EPA brownfield grant applications may be due earlier this fall. Start working on yours soon.”

Brownfields Study Group Member Karen Dettmer to Lead Milwaukee Water Utility

Karen Dettmer has been named to head up the Milwaukee Water Works. The Milwaukee Common Council’s Public Works Committee unanimously approved the appointment during its January 23, 2018 meeting.

Dettmer, a licensed engineer who’s held various positions with the City of Milwaukee, has been a formal member of the Wisconsin Brownfields Study Group since May 2015.

Most recently, Dettmer was the public works coordination manager for Milwaukee’s Dept. of Public Works. Before that, she spent several years with the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee.

 

Apply Now for 2019 EPA Brownfield Grants

Applications for 2019 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brownfield grants are now being accepted. The Request for Proposals and the Application Guidelines officially open the FY 2019 Brownfields Multipurpose, Assessment, and Cleanup Grant competition. Applications for these grants are due January 31st, 2019.

Grants offered by the EPA Brownfields Program may be used by local governments, tribes and non-profit organizations to address known or suspected contaminated sites. In March of 2018 the Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development (BUILD) Act was enacted. The BUILD Act reauthorized EPA’s Brownfields Program and made several important changes that affect the grant programs that are described on the EPA Grants web page.

Continue reading “Apply Now for 2019 EPA Brownfield Grants”

DNR Brownfields Annual Accomplishments Report Now Available

The Wisconsin DNR’s final report summarizing efforts and accomplishments funded by a US EPA Section 128(a) Grant is now complete and available online.

The report, prepared by the Remediation and Redevelopment (RR) program’s Brownfields and Outreach section, highlights the work and major accomplishments that program staff and partners achieved during the September 1, 2017 to August 31, 2018 grant year.

Previous reports, including the recent mid-year update on 128(a) funded efforts, are also available on the RR program’s website.

“Our staff put a lot of time and effort into working on brownfields cleanup and redevelopment projects and policies throughout the year. We’re proud to present this comprehensive report on those efforts and we’re grateful to the US EPA for providing funds to help us with those projects,” said Christine Haag, Brownfields and Outreach section chief.

WEDC Reduces Local Grant-Matching Amounts for Brownfield Projects in Rural Communities

Brownfields are former industrial and commercial properties that are now idle or underused, where the existence or possibility of environmental contamination is, at least in part, inhibiting redevelopment. They exist in every community. State grants and loans are available to help assess, investigate, and clean up these properties.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) offers two popular brownfield grant programs. Their Site Assessment Grant (SAG) Program helps communities conduct initial property research and data gathering activities on brownfield properties. Their Brownfields Grant Program funds environmental cleanup work.

The WEDC recently announced an increase in SAG funding for FY19, to $1.5 million, and approved another allocation of $5 million for Brownfield Grants. They also significantly reduced the local government’s required match amount for rural communities to just 20% for SAG awards, and 50% for cleanup grants.

In addition to the WEDC grants, the DNR offers environmental consultant services through the Wisconsin Assessment Monies (WAM) grant program with no local match required, and cleanup funding through the Ready for Reuse grant and loan program with 20% local match and 0% loans.

The DNR and the WEDC work together to help communities address brownfield properties. Contact the DNR to set up a Green Team meeting to discuss your projects.

 

Fund for Lake Michigan Now Accepting Pre-Proposals

The Fund for Lake Michigan is now accepting pre-proposals for its Fall 2018 grant period.

Pre-Proposals are due on or before September 24, 2018. The proposals must be submitted through the Fund’s online grants management system. Invitations to submit full proposals will be sent out in October.

The Fund for Lake Michigan is seeking projects that enhance the health of Lake Michigan and its tributaries through habitat restoration, pollutant reduction, stream restoration and improvements to coastal areas in Wisconsin.

Grants are made only to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations and to governmental agencies. Geographically, Fund for Lake Michigan grants are targeted to the Lake Michigan shoreline, near shore areas and watersheds within the Lake Michigan basin in Wisconsin. The Fund for Lake Michigan will also consider a small number of grants outside the Lake Michigan watershed and within the Madison Gas and Electric’s service territory.

Question about the program or the grant process can be directed to Casey Eggleson.

Coastal Management Grants Available – Informational Workshops Scheduled

Wisconsin’s coastal communities are encouraged to apply for grants from the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program (WCMP). The WCMP is currently accepting proposals to enhance, preserve, protect and restore resources within the coastal zone – counties adjacent to Lakes Superior and Michigan – and anticipates awarding up to $1.5 million.

Applications for the WCMP grants are due November 2, 2018. Three workshops are planned in the coming days to discuss the grant application process and funding priorities.

Tuesday, August 21
1:30 p.m.
Port of Milwaukee
2323 S. Lincoln Memorial Drive, Milwaukee
Milwaukee

Thursday, August 23
1:30 p.m.
Neville Public Museum
210 Museum Place
Green Bay

Tuesday, September 4
1:30 p.m.
Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center
29270 County Highway G
Ashland

The WCMP Grants are available for coastal wetland protection and habitat restoration, nonpoint source pollution control, coastal resource and community planning, Great Lakes education, public access and historic preservation.

Applicants are encouraged to contact WCMP staff early to discuss ideas for project proposals and application requirements.

Application materials and the Request for Proposals are available on the WCMP website or if you have specific questions, you can call the WCMP at 608-267-7982.

Environmental Liability Exemptions for Local Governments – Related to Redevelopment

Counties, cities, villages and towns, along with RDAs, CDAs, other local governmental units, can fairly easily obtain environmental liability exemptions, civil immunity, and cost recovery authority in Wisconsin when taking title to unproductive/abandoned industrial and commercial properties.

These protections are explicitly authorized by multiple sections in Wis. Statutes Ch. 292, and are designed to enable local governments to take action to stimulate redevelopment activities at contaminated or potentially contaminated properties when the private market is not providing enough capital and economic activity to achieve the desired level of community improvement on its own.

Remediation and Redevelopment Program staff are available to help local government officials understand and use these robust statutory tools, as well as identify financial assistance opportunities for environmental investigation and cleanup work. The DNR’s Green Team meetings are a good way to get started on your first, or next, redevelopment project.

The DNR publication Local Government Environmental Liability Exemptions in Wisconsin (RR-055) provides an overview of several local government environmental liability exemptions, and lists types of documentation that the DNR typically requests to confirm that the exemption is in effect.