The 3,500 people attending this year's annual brownfields conference in Portland, OR, last week were introduced to a new concept in brownfields redevelopment - portfields.
The 3,500 people attending this year's annual brownfields conference in Portland, OR, last week were introduced to a new concept in brownfields redevelopment - portfields. A federal portfields initiative was announced that is aimed at revitalizing waterfront areas and improving marine transportation, as well as restoring and protecting coastal resources.
Brownfields are degraded lands that may be contaminated with hazardous substances, and port-fields are such lands in and adjacent to ports. The portfields initiative is a new federal government interagency effort led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that will see federal officials working with port communities to rehabilitate their degraded industrial areas.
The initiative is organized into three phases, the first two of which were completed this summer. In the first phase, members of the working group interviewed port authorities and other stakeholders at ports that have redeveloped brownfields for port activities, to identify successful practices and strategies.
In the second phase, interviews were conducted at ports that would like to redevelop portfields. This information will be used to determine what assistance port communities need and want in their redevelopment efforts.
For the third phase, to begin in fiscal year 2004, three port communities were chosen for pilot programs - New Bedford, Massachusetts; Tampa, Florida; and Bellingham, Washington.
Federal partners will work with port authorities and other stakeholders during this phase to plan and implement cleanup and reuse of portfields.
They will jointly remove or stabilize dangerous structures and contamination in or near waterways, restore health and natural functions to watersheds by improving surfaceand groundwater quality, remediate and restore wetlands, woodlands, and habitat, improve storm systems, reduce health risks for nearby communities and waterway users, remove eye sores, and help improve air quality.
Marianne Lamont Horinko, Acting Administrator of the U.S.(EPA), says that each port was selected for its strong commitment to redevelopment, its particular needs, and the quality of its proposal to work with eight different federal agencies on the portfields initiative.
The federal agencies involved in partnership with NOAA on portfields are: the EPA, which will assess the needs of the port cities and provide technical support in the cleanup of any brownfields site; the Economic Development Administration; the Maritime Administration; the Department of Labor; the Army Corps of Engineers; the Department of Interior; and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Port of Bellingham has demonstrated its commitment with years of work to clean up contaminated sediment along its industrial waterfront. In 1996 the port entered into a cooperative partner-ship with 12 other federal, state, tribal, and local agencies known as the "Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot." In 2000 the team published a final environmental impact statement, describing a comprehensive strategy that integrates waterfront land use with sediment cleanup and near-shore habitat restoration. The team is now working on the preliminary phases of implementation, toward an estimated completion date in 2004.
The International City/County Management Association, which is co-hosting the brownfields conference with the City of Portland, says that regardless of location, ports share concerns related to management, the environment, development, transport, commerce, homeland security, and stake-holder coordination.
By 2020, international maritime trade is expected to double, the association said, increasing pressure on already developed coastal areas. Redeveloping brownfields in ports, where available land may be limited, can ease marine transportation and offer environmental, economic, and social benefits to the surrounding regions.
"Linking and balancing competing interests within a single port can be a tricky proposition," but the goals that drive port revitalization are "surprisingly similar" nationwide, said the association. All ports want to increase commerce while protecting the environment and human health, create jobs, and restore the environmental health of land and water.
The EPA's Brownfields Program encourages redevelopment of America's 450,000 abandoned and contaminated sites. Redevelopment approaches have included the conversion of industrial water fronts to river front parks, landfills to golf courses, and rail corridors to recreational trails.
Also announced at the conference was the first brownfields stakeholder report, titled, "Reusing Land, Restoring Hope," a history of the EPA Brownfields Program from the first pilot grants during the Clinton administration in 1993 to the passage of the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act in 2002, which authorizes up to $250 million in funds annually for brown-fields grants.
"The report," said Horinko during the conference opening session, "shows how cleaning up brownfields improves the environment and public health, and how reuse of these properties has brought economic vitality back to blighted communities."
The EPA's brownfields assistance funding has leveraged more than $4.6 billion in private investment, and helped to create more than 20,000 jobs, the report shows.