Current, future Brownfields projects addressed

Kevin Winter

Tue Apr 13 2021 07:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

As the current Brownfields grant winds down, a final public meeting was held with Keith Ziobron, senior principal and branch manager for environmental consulting firm Cardno, at the Lake County Courthouse.

As the current Brownfields grant winds down, a final public meeting was held with Keith Ziobron, senior principal and branch manager for environmental consulting firm Cardno, at the Lake County Courthouse. The meeting addressed the ending of the initial project, what the future holds and what can be done with future grants.

The Brownfields program is managed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and awards grants to communities, organizations and other groups to rehabilitate properties which have fallen out of use and could potentially house hazardous material. The program helps current and potential property owners to clean up any hazardous material that is found and to make sure the property stays clean.

In fiscal year 2018 the EPA awarded a $600,000 grant to the South Central Oregon Economic Development District (SCOEDD) to perform phase one and two assessments on properties throughout Lake County. The grant was for three years, and during that time 10 properties in Lakeview and one in Paisley completed either phase one or two.

Current Lakeview Community Partnership (LCP) Exec. Dir. Ginger Casto directed the Brownfields program in Lake County when she worked for SCOEDD; she continued the Brownfields work after she became the executive director of the LCP.

Ziobron said there is still around $20,000 - $30,000 left in the grant — enough for one more phase one project and possibly a small phase two project depending on the property. Projects involving old gasoline stations generally are more expensive in phase two as the underground tanks have to be removed before testing of the soil begins.

“The Brownfields program is very important for property owners as it allows assessment to be completed so everyone knows what is at these properties,” said Ziobron.

He said the program has helped to remove the stigma blighted properties might have, especially ones which have been abandoned for many years.

One of the successes of the program in Lake County has been the number of “no further action” letters attached to properties. According to Ziobron, the letters come after phase two is completed and are permanently attached to the property, providing peace of mind for future buyers.

A discussion occurred over future endeavors, and money from the EPA. Ziobron talked about two ways the EPA can help with actual clean up efforts: a $500,000 one-time grant for specific projects or a revolving loan fund. A town, county or non-profit can get money from the EPA through the revolving loan fund and then loan out the money to specific properties and projects, with the money paid back into the fund. After it is established, additional money is deposited into the loan fund each year.

During the three years, one of the projects Cardno completed was designing a property inventory website. The effort involved driving across the County, to areas where no 4 x 4 vehicles were needed, taking pictures of run down properties and noting their condition. The website is interactive and includes information from the Lake County Assessor’s office and property ownership details. Ziobron said this is a great tool for local leaders to direct future efforts and to identify those property owners looking to go through the Brownfields process.

“We want to continue the momentum and address additional sites if we win another EPA grant. We have done a great job getting ‘no further action needed’ letters,” said Ziobron.

For more information about the Brownfields program, contact Casto at 541-944-8176.