$11.8 Million in Brownfield Grants to Clean Contaminated Alaska Sites

Four Alaska Native regional and village corporations are receiving brownfields funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the first time. The funds allow the corporations to address contaminated lands conveyed through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

Site Assessments and Cleanup Plans

Altogether, Alaska communities are receiving $11.8 million through EPA’s Multipurpose, Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grant programs and the Technical Assistance to Brownfields Communities program.

Grants of $2 million each go to Ahtna, Inc., Aleut Corporation, Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI), and Ounalashka Corporation.

The Ahtna grant is meant for as many as twenty Phase I and up to seven Phase II environmental site assessments, for preparing a reuse and revitalization plan, and for conducting community engagement activities. The target area is Ahtna lands in the Copper River valley region.

The Aleut Corporation is using the funds on Adak Island for eight Phase I environmental site assessments, for developing an area-wide plan, and for conducting cleanup planning and community outreach.

CIRI’s funds are to inventory sites in the Kenai Peninsula Borough and to conduct twenty Phase I and eighteen Phase II environmental site assessments, prepare eight reuse plans, eight cleanup plans, one area-wide plan, and to develop a community involvement plan.

“The Alaska Native people of the Cook Inlet region have spent generations in accord with the land, growing with it, harvesting plants and animals from it, acting as its stewards,” says CIRI president and CEO Sophie Minich. “This funding from the EPA enables CIRI to assess what is needed to restore and protect these lands for CIRI shareholders and descendants, today and for future generations.”

Ounalashka Corporation’s share is for twenty-four Phase I and fifteen Phase II environmental site assessments, eighteen cleanup plans, twelve site-specific reuse plans, one area-wide reuse plan, and a redevelopment-focused brownfield site inventory within the City of Unalaska. The target areas for this grant include Bunker Hill/Little South America, Pyramid Valley, and Strawberry Hill.

In addition to Native corporation grants, the City of Kake receives $2 million to clean up the former Kake Elementary School property. Grant funds also will be used to hold at least four community meetings and develop community outreach materials.

“It will mitigate and dispose of an old grade school building that has been sitting idle, rotting away, and falling in on itself in the heart of our community for the past three plus decades,” explains Kake Mayor Lloyd Davis. “This building is a serious health and safety issue within the community as a whole and especially for our children that continue to play around in the area and or try to get into the building because they are curious.” The mayor credits Sealaska regional corporation with helping to secure the EPA grant.

The Municipality of Anchorage receives $1 million to conduct twenty-three Phase I and twelve Phase II environmental site assessments in the Downtown, Midtown/Spenard, Mountain View, and Chugiak/ Eagle River areas. Funds also pay for community engagement activities and cleanup and reuse planning.

Catalyst for Revitalization

The City of Whittier receives $800,000 to conduct two Phase I and three Phase II environmental site assessments, to develop three cleanup plans, to support community engagement activities, and to conduct cleanup activities on up to five priority sites identified by the city. Whittier’s assistant city manager Jackie Wilde says the brownfields funding will transform the vacant Buckner Building into a community asset that could attract economic development. Wilde adds, “Looking forward to helping make Whittier Prettier for current and future citizens and visitors for all generations to come!”

EPA Region 10 administrator Casey Sixkiller says, “These grants will help communities assess and clean up contaminated properties, which is often a catalyst for revitalization.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski adds, “By cleaning up previously unusable lands, Alaskans will have access to cleaner and safer lands that their communities can finally use.”

EPA’s Brownfields Program began in 1995 and has provided nearly $2.4 billion to assess and clean up contaminated properties and return blighted properties to productive reuse. Many communities that are under economic stress, particularly those located in areas that have experienced long periods of disinvestment, lack the resources needed to initiate brownfield cleanup and redevelopment projects.

Source: Alaska Business