Sponsored by Oregon Business

Funds for toxic cleanup uncertain

| Print |  Email
Archives - October 2008
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

Photos from the 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon awards celebration

The Latest
Friday, February 27, 2015
IMG 9975cneditPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Images from the 2015 celebration of Oregon's great workplaces.


Read more...

Where do Portland demographics rank among the largest 50 cities in the US?

The Latest
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
thumbpdxinperspectiveBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The Portland in Perspective study, done by the City Budget Office, was released Tuesday.


Read more...

City announces plans for Portland summer-league baseball team

News
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
IMG 3888BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Baseball is returning to Portland and city officials are hoping economic opportunity comes with it.


Read more...

Umbrella Revolution

March 2015
Monday, February 23, 2015

Yeah, we know: Oregonians are way too cool for umbrellas. But today’s stylish, high-tech models will soften the resistance of the most rain hardened.


Read more...

6 chiefs of staff dish on their bosses

The Latest
Thursday, February 05, 2015
legilistiblog-thumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

We ask chiefs of staff for the scoop on Oregon legislators.


Read more...

On the Road

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

My daughter turned 18 last week, and for her birthday I got her a Car2Go membership. Not to label myself a disruptor, but it felt like a groundbreaking moment. The two of us, mother and child, were participating in a new teen rite of passage: Instead of handing over the car keys, I handed over a car-sharing card — with the caveat that she not use the gift as her own personal car service.


Read more...

On the Brink

March 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
BY APRIL STREETER | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Leslie Carlson channels the big idea.


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