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

Letting Go

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

As baby boomers sell their businesses, too many forget the all-important succession plan.


Read more...

An uncertain future

Guest Blog
Thursday, May 21, 2015
norristhumbBY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER

Uncertainty is a part of doing business, whether in through the lens of investment opportunities and risks or the business of running an enterprise.


Read more...

Shades of Gray

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Are we too quick to diagnose corruption?


Read more...

It's a Man's Man's Man's World

May 2015
Friday, April 24, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Male tech workers speak out on the industry's gender troubles.


Read more...

Oregon businesses face destruction from future earthquake

The Latest
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
htctthumb1BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

An earthquake would completely destroy many Oregon businesses, highlighting the urgent need for the private and public sectors to collaborate on shoring up disaster preparedness, said panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast summit today.


Read more...

Celestial Eats

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER AND EILEEN GARVIN

A power lunch at Solstice Wood Fire Cafe & Bar.


Read more...

5 questions for inDinero CEO Jessica Mah

The Latest
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
jessicathumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

inDinero, a business that manages back-office accounting for startups and smaller companies, recently announced it would relocate its headquarters from San Francisco to Portland. We talked to CEO Jessica Mah about what drew her to Portland and how she plans to disrupt the traditional CPA model.


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