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

Farm in a Box

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Most of the food Americans consume is trucked in from hundreds of miles away. Eric Wilson, co-founder and CEO of Gro-volution, wants to change that. So this past spring, the Air Force veteran and former greenhouse manager started work on an alternative farming system he claims is more efficient than conventional agriculture, and also shortens the distance between the consumer and the farm.


Read more...

5 stats about Oregon fireworks

The Latest
Thursday, June 18, 2015
fireworksthumb001BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Fireworks are a booming industry, even if the pyrotechnics have turned July 4th into a day fire marshals, and many residents, love to hate.


Read more...

10 Innovators in Rural Health

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Telemedicine, new partnerships and real estate diversification make health care more accessible in rural Oregon.


Read more...

Fueling Up for the Climb

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY GREGG MORRIS

Rita Hansen aims to scale natural gas vehicle innovation.


Read more...

Oregon needs a Grand Bargain energy plan

Linda Baker
Monday, June 22, 2015
0622-gastaxblogthumbBY LINDA BAKER

The Clean Fuels/gas tax trade off will go down in history as another disjointed, on-again off-again approach to city and state lawmaking.


Read more...

Department of Self-Promotion

Linda Baker
Wednesday, June 17, 2015

061715-awards1Oregon Business wins journalism awards.


Read more...

Photo log: Murray's Pharmacy

The Latest
Friday, July 17, 2015
OBM-Heppner-Kaplan thumbBY JASON KAPLAN

Photographer Jason Kaplan takes a look at Murray's Pharmacy in Heppner.  The family owned business is run by John and Ann Murray, who were featured in our July/August cover story: 10 Innovators in Rural Health Care.


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