On March 23, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 – more commonly called the omnibus package. The appropriations bill sets spending limits for government agencies and programs through the end of September, 2018. It also incorporated additional spending items.
The BUILD Act was included in the FY18 omnibus package, reauthorizing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields Program. Originally established in 2002 under the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act. However, the authorization for the program expired in 2006 even though Congress continued to annually allocate funds for the program.
Reauthorizing and improving the EPA Brownfields Program has been a priority ever since 2006 for brownfield advocates, and Minnesota Brownfields had continually supported the reauthorization of the program, meeting last year with members of Minnesota’sCongressional delegation regarding the EPA’s Brownfields Program impact in Minnesota. The omnibus package passed last week contains a number of changes to the Brownfields Program long sought by communities throughout the country.
Here is a rundown from Smart Growth America on the major highlights of the BUILD Act that were included in the omnibus package:
Includes the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development Act of 2018 (BUILD Act)
- Reauthorizes the EPA’s Brownfields Program.
- Expands program eligibility to nonprofit organizations, sites acquired before 2002, waterfront, and clean energy brownfield sites.
- Increased funds for cleanup by up to $500,000 (up to $650,000 with a waiver)
- Enables multipurpose grants of up to $1 million to carry out inventory, characterization, assessment, planning, and remediation activities.
- Enables up to 5% of a grant to be used for administrative costs, not including investigation or identification of site, design and performance of response action, or monitoring of a natural response.
- Provides $1,500,000 of small community technical assistance grants to both small and disadvantaged communities.
- Provides $50 million per year for state response program funding through 2023.
- Despite President Trump’s proposed EPA cut, the bill maintains the agency and its funding at FY17 levels ($8.1 billion).
- Appropriates $200 million for Brownfield cleanup funding for each of fiscal years 2019-2023.
On Tuesday, the first community meeting for the West Side Flats Greenway took place at the Neighborhood House/Wellstone Center in St. Paul. Attendees were greeted by project members and asked to participate in a number of activities relevant to the planning process. People were asked to write about what they saw for the space in ten years and to vote on their ideal space designs. With this process there were pictures of various gathering space concepts, water features, park types, bench styles, and activities displayed where each person voted for their two favorites in each category.
The theme of community input was apparent throughout the meeting and was especially salient because the green space is all about designing for function and amenity.
The West Side Flats Study Area is approximately 120 acres and is located directly across the Mississippi River from downtown Saint Paul; situated between the river, Plato Boulevard, Wabasha Street, and Lafayette Road. The proposed Greenway is located along a working rail line that divides the Study Area.
The Study Area was funded through multiple grants including U.S. EPA Brownfields Areawide Planning. Through this grant, Minnesota Brownfields was brought on as a partner to help inform the community about the role of brownfields in redevelopment planning for the West Side Flats. The Areawide grant enables planners to assess not just the proposed study area but the area around it for an expanded, holistic, next-gen approach to planning. The site of the Greenway has soil contamination in the form of unregulated fill (cinders, brick, black top, and sand) which is not toxic along with a small area of arsenic cleanup.
Throughout the presentations there was a theme of returning back to the Flats as the immigrant population that once lived there was removed due to flooding. The vision for the West Side Flats is a mixed use urban village for all with the Greenway as the most prominent green space in the neighborhood. The Greenway will be part of a larger amenity complex with connections to a river walk and bike trails to make the park a multiuse amenity for residents.
However, there are a number of challenges that come with this project as well, the most important being the creative use of limited space. The area for the Greenway will not just be a park but a stormwater management site. There will be a stormwater pond to protect the area which is designed to withstand five year floods while also being a stormwater treatment area. Making this limited space a successful water management system and an appealing park able to support a large population is further compounded by the presence of the railroad and the existence of utilities that cannot be built on or have trees on as access is still needed. These challenges are daunting but involving community in the design process will help the community understand the process.
The West Side Flats Greenway is using a stacked-function green infrastructure concept where private property owners are partnering with the City of Saint Paul to use green design to manage stormwater runoff, reduce sewer overflows, and improve water quality. Barr Engineering is coordinating master planning for the stormwater functions of the Greenway. The City itself is implementing the process in a different way as the maintenance, operation, and assessment of the site is being done through multiple department partnerships instead of one department and is a learning process for all.
This meeting was all about helping the community understand the potential for the space along with the challenges that come along with it. Minnesota Brownfields was on hand to give insights into how projects like this have been handled in the past and what kinds of remediation need to be done at this area in particular. The next community meeting will be in 6 to 8 weeks where Barr Engineering will bring in proposals for the community to learn about and discuss.
SAINT PAUL, MINN.—(April 22, 2015)—A newly-published report by Minnesota Brownfields, Benefits of Brownfield Redevelopment shares how redevelopment of idled, contaminated commercial industrial properties can lead Minnesota’s communities to economic growth and community revitalization while improving the environment. Three fact sheets summarize the work.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines brownfields as “real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant”. A total of 77,502 acres (or 121 square miles) have been enrolled in Minnesota Pollution Control Agency programs since 1995, an area greater than the combined area of the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul (114 square miles). Despite this progress, Minnesota Brownfields conservatively estimates that at least 10,000 brownfield sites remain in Minnesota, concentrated in urban areas but found in nearly every community throughout the state. The report shows that redeveloping brownfields creates and retains jobs, increases local tax base, and enables efficient reuse of existing infrastructure.
Substantial environmental benefits result from reusing brownfield properties. Brownfield redevelopment reduces transportation-related vehicle miles travelled, greenhouse gas emissions per capita by 20-57% relative to conventional greenfield development. Redevelopment projects also produce substantially less stormwater runoff, and reduce air emissions by 32-57% relative to greenfield developments.
Finally, brownfield sites allow Minnesota’s communities to respond to increasing market preference by millennials, baby boomers, and seniors for vibrant, walkable communities with transportation choices, jobs, and urban amenities. “Minnesota has long been a leader in recycling brownfields for new uses while protecting the environment. We have a fantastic opportunity now to re-purpose contaminated sites into new housing, jobs, and greenspace to meet the needs of tomorrow’s residents and workers”, said Martha Faust, Executive Director of Minnesota Brownfields.
On May 14th, Martha Faust, the Executive Director of Minnesota Brownfields, along with Scott Marquardt organized a tour of remediated brownfield sites on the East Side of St. Paul for a group of participants in the Mission Investors Exchange National Conference. The bus tour visited a number of sites in the East Side, including Beacon Bluff, Baldinger Bakery, Urban Organics at the Hamm’s Brewery, and the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary.
The first stop was Beacon Bluff, the former 3M world headquarters that was acquired by the St. Paul Port Authority in 2009. Since then, the site has been cleaned up and is now being sold in parcels for redevelopment by private companies. Next, the tour visited Baldinger Bakery, a state-of-the-art industrial bakery that produces buns and rolls for McDonald’s and Arby’s. The LEED Silver certified building is remarkably efficient, recovering heat from the oven stack to power itself and reduce the need for conventional electricity.
The third stop was Urban Organics, a year-round organic farm based in the former Hamm’s Brewery. In partnership with Pentair, Urban Organics uses an aquaponic system to grow greens and tilapia. In this way, the fish waste provides nourishment for the vegetables and the vegetables in turn clean the water for the fish. The operations at Urban Organics are highly efficient, using just 2% of the water used in conventional farming, and have provided a base for further re-use of the Hamm’s Brewery site.
The last stop of the tour was the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, a 27-acre park in the Mississippi River floodplain on former industrial and railroad land. The park that stands there today is the result of a collaborative effort between the Lower Phalen Creek Project, the Trust for Public Land, and the City of St. Paul. Not only does the park provide green space for residents of the East Side, but also its trails connect throughout the East Side as part of the Bruce Vento Regional Trail.
The following video presents highlights of the bus tour:
We’re pleased to share results from a 24-month study evaluating the potential for cost savings associated with the off-site reuse of soil at brownfield sites and the legal framework surrounding soil reuse. Study objectives were to:
- Gather site-specific data on soil-reuse activities, costs, and driving and limiting factors for soil reuse in Minnesota.
- Examine and quantify the economic impacts of off-site soil disposal versus off-site soil reuse for marginally contaminated soil.
- Examine and quantify environmental impacts of off-site soil disposal versus off-site soil reuse.
- Summarize the regulatory and statutory evolution and current policy status of off-site soil reuse in Minnesota.
- Define the barriers to off-site soil reuse in Minnesota, both in practical application and policy.
- Recommend solutions to encourage and increase off-site reuse of marginally contaminated soil.
Want to learn more? Attend our May 15th forum.
Successful transit-orented development (TOD) requires strategic integration of land-use planning, transportation planning, and resource allocation throughout all project steps, such that public investments leverage maximal community benefit while laying a foundation for continued economic development. Brownfields reuse is an important component of this process. Metro areas throughout the U.S. are currently confronting this dual challenge, implementing transit projects with significant redevelopment opportunities.
Minnesota Brownfields has authored a brief guide examining the challenges specific to redevelopment within transit corridors, and highlighting innovative approaches and redevelopment strategies from selected U.S. metro areas and in the Twin Cities.
Read the guide
This report was made possible through funding by The McKnight Foundation.