Brownfields

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.

DNR’s Natural Resources Magazine Highlights Spill Law, Brownfields Study Group

2018 marks the anniversaries of two things that shape and guide the Wisconsin DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment Program: the Spill Law (Wis. Admin. Code Ch. 292) and the Brownfields Study Group. It’s the 40th anniversary of “292,” while the Study Group celebrates 20 years.

Both are highlighted in this article in the current edition of the DNR’s Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

Many of our RR Report readers have played a role in helping to shape Wisconsin’s brownfields policies, and have done the work to clean up and redevelop brownfield sites. The DNR recognizes your efforts, appreciates the partnerships, and looks forward to another successful 40 years.

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.

 

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.

Racine to Use DNR Brownfield Assessment Funds to Aid Uptown Redevelopment

Efforts to assess possible contamination at a decades-old industrial site in Racine’s uptown area will get a boost with a recently issued brownfields grant from the Department of Natural Resources.

The award comes from the DNR Wisconsin Assessment Monies (WAM) program, and will provide for contractor services worth approximately $20,000. The work will help the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Racine (RDA) assess possible contamination, leading to a potential cleanup and eventual reuse of the site.

Brownfields site in Racine.

Racine assessed this brownfield site in the uptown area with help from a WAM award worth $20,000 in contractor services.

The nearly one-acre site on 13th Street has a long history of various industrial uses. It was most recently the site of a laundry service for the health care and hospitality industries. Historic records from the Racine Fire Department indicate that a 500-gallon underground fuel oil tank was located on or near the property.

With the RDA ready to promote the property, an investigation of the environmental conditions on the site will help put the group in a better position of securing a buyer and returning the site to productive economic status.

“As Racine continues to redevelop former industrial sites, the DNR is proud to be part of the city’s future,” said Christine Haag, chief of the DNR brownfields section. “This WAM grant could be just the leverage that the RDA needs to help turn this property around and get it on track for the next generation of use.”

Administered by the DNR Remediation and Redevelopment Program, WAM awards provide communities with professional environmental site assessments of properties with known or perceived contamination. The program is funded through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency brownfields assessment grant.

Participation in the WAM program requires minimal effort by local governments. Because there is no financial match or project administration involved, the program is an attractive opportunity for communities. In many instances, WAM awards are leveraged with other sources of funding to kick-start repurposing efforts on properties that may have been underutilized for many years.

Applications can be submitted for WAM awards at any time. Properties eligible for funding include closed or closing manufacturing plants, or vacant land with a history of manufacturing.

For more information, contact Tom Coogan at 608-267-7560 or Thomas.Coogan@wisconsin.gov.  

Last Chance to Register for Brownfields Grant-Writing Workshop in La Crosse

Join the Wisconsin DNR and Minnesota Brownfields in La Crosse, on Aug. 1, 2018, for a free, full-day workshop on writing successful EPA grant applications. Get the information you need to compete effectively for these property investigation and cleanup funds — and get a head-start on your proposal for the upcoming fall grant opportunity.

Who should attend? Local and regional government officials, not-for-profit economic and community development organizations, tribes, and any other entity interested in applying for federal grants to assist with the assessment, cleanup, and redevelopment of under-performing commercial and industrial properties in their community.

More information about the workshop is available HERE, and a link to the registration form is available HERE. Lunch is provided too!

EPA Solicitation for 2018 BUILD Act Comments

The Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development (BUILD) Act was enacted on March 23, 2018 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018. The BUILD Act reauthorized EPA’s Brownfields Program, and made amendments to the 2002 Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act.  Authorized changes affect brownfields grants, ownership and liability provisions, and state and tribal response programs. EPA is developing policy guidance to implement the BUILD Act.

https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/brownfields-broadcast

As part of this process, the EPA is soliciting comment on three provisions in the BUILD Act:

  1. The authority to increase the per-site cleanup grant amounts to $500,000;
  2. The new multi-purpose grant authority; and
  3. The new small community assistance grant authority.

Comments will be accepted through July 10, 2018 to BUILDAct@epa.gov.

Economic Development on Brownfields Workshop Announced

You’re invited to a workshop about economic development on brownfield properties, to be held at the County Community Building in DeKalb, Illinois, on July 25, 2018, from 9:15 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. DeKalb is about 60 minutes south of Beloit. The workshop is free but registration is required by July 20. Lunch will be provided.

This workshop will help communities gain a better understanding of what a brownfield is, learn how brownfield revitalization can be a part of your community’s economic development strategy, and hear from state and national leaders about resources available to your community. Some of the material will be Illinois-specific, but most of it is broadly applicable to all brownfield properties everywhere.

Workshop presenters include a brownfields expert from U.S. EPA’s Technical Assistance to Brownfields (TAB) program. This person also serves and consults with Wisconsin communities. TAB services and federal funding opportunities will be discussed in detail.

For more information about this workshop, and to register, go to https://www.ksutab.org/education/workshops/details?id=300

Aug. 1, 2018 – EPA Brownfields Grant Writing Workshop in La Crosse

Join the DNR and Minnesota Brownfields on Aug. 1, 2018, in La Crosse, for a free, full-day workshop on writing successful EPA grant applications. Get the information you need to know to compete effectively for these funds, and get a head-start on your proposal for the fall grant opportunity.

Wisconsin communities, and the DNR, have been awarded millions of dollars in brownfields grant funds by the EPA over the past decade. It is clearly possible to obtain these dollars, but your grant application package has to be very good to stand out and get funded. Tips and strategies from experts will be shared at this workshop.

New federal legislation, referred to as the BUILD Act, makes changes to several aspects of brownfields law, including more clarity for local governments on how to obtain federal liability protections, and more flexibility in the EPA grant program. Learn about these changes and more.

Who should attend? Local and regional government officials, not-for-profit economic and community development organizations, tribes, and any other entity interested in applying for federal grants to assist with the assessment, cleanup, and redevelopment of under-performing commercial and industrial properties in their community.

More information about the workshop is available HERE, and a link to the registration form is available HERE (button near top-right of web page). We hope you can join us!

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.