Home Archives October 2008 Funds for toxic cleanup uncertain

Funds for toxic cleanup uncertain

| Print |  Email
Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Brownfield The former McCormick and Baxter Creosoting site in North Portland (foreground) cost state and federal agencies $45.6 million to remediate.

PORTLAND This summer a national group proclaimed a victory of sorts in Portland’s perpetual struggle to clean up contaminated industrial land along the Willamette River. The Chicago-based National Brownfield Association spent a year working with the Portland Development Commission and multiple government agencies on a roadmap that could turn idle, polluted land into profitable industry.  The plan, however, is just that: a framework for some of the biggest issues — like how to actually fund the cleanup.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency’s delicate definition of a brownfield — land where “redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination” — is indicative of their sometimes-controversial nature: There are 18 such sites covering 338 acres along the Portland harbor. If only half of those sites were cleaned up and developed, says Kevin Johnson, a PDC program manager, it would create $320 million worth of investment and 1,450 new jobs.

That land, however, isn’t worth that much today.  And that’s a key problem. It was comparatively easy to find development money to help clean other non-industrial-zoned brownfields, such as in South Waterfront or the Pearl District, since the value of the land offset the price of cleanup. But cleanup cost vs. industrial land value is, as Chuck Harman with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality puts it, “pretty flat.” That doesn’t give landowners much incentive to clean up. A tax structure that decreases property taxes for polluted land, along with fears of what rehabilitation might cost, further diminishes landowner motivation.

One way to address that problem would be to change the zoning and allow non-industrial development. But pushing the industrial sector out to agricultural land would take jobs from the city and eliminate industry’s riverfront transportation trifecta: rail, water and highway.

Further complicating things are the land’s other values: as habitat, as green space, as part of Portland’s role as a green mecca.  Willamette Riverkeeper executive director Travis Williams says some environmental groups have been more focused on pollution issues in the river itself. But rehabilitation of the land and development will undoubtedly come under the public’s land-use and environmental magnifying glass.

So how does the PDC proceed with its new plan? Slowly.  The first step, Johnson says, is to identify sites where cleanup is financially feasible. Then the agency wants to find a large-scale developer who could purchase and develop multiple properties. Funding and grants from both state and federal agencies are available for cleanup. Bonds, city money and private/public partnerships would also have to be considered. There’ll also be a brownfield consultant.

“We’re looking for someone who can give us a broad perspective. What’s worked in other parts of the country, what it will take for us to utilize this land,” Johnson says.                   

ABRAHAM HYATT


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Gender Code

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY COURTNEY SHERWOOD

Janice Levenhagen-Seeley reprograms tech.


Read more...

Portland rises

News
Monday, August 18, 2014

IMG 2551Portland is in the middle of another construction boom, with residential and office projects springing up downtown, in the Pearl and Old Town. OB Web Editor Jessica Ridgway documents the new wave.


Read more...

Tight and Loose

September 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
BY JENNIFER MARGULIS

As schools implement more rigorous academic standards, holistic and flexible approaches to K-12 education flourish.


Read more...

Shipping News

September 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
BY JENNIFER MARGULIS

In 2012 The Dalles, a city of some 14,400 located 75 miles east of Portland and often seen as the poor cousin to adjacent Hood River, completed a massive project to revitalize its dock.


Read more...

Two sides of the coin

Contributed Blogs
Monday, August 25, 2014
0825 thumb moneyBY JASON NORRIS | OB GUEST BLOGGER

Ferguson Wellman’s investment views on the economy and capital markets.


Read more...

Powerlist: Colleges and Universities

September 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation about higher education with the presidents of the University of Oregon and Clackamas Community College, followed by September's powerlist.


Read more...

College Hacker

September 2014
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
BY KLINT FINLEY

Treehouse CEO Ryan Carson builds a 21st-century trade school.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS