The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has launched an initiative to assist local governments and property owners with economic redevelopment when closed or closing manufacturing plants are acting as impediments. The WDNR created the Wisconsin Assessment Monies (WAM) program as a gap-funding mechanism for use by local governments, developers, and property owners, where the lack of environmental due diligence and sampling at brownfields sites is an obstacle to reuse. The WAM program provides direct, no-fee contractor services at these closed sites, many of them created as a result of the 2008 recession. These services are funded by U.S. EPA brownfield assessment grants awarded to the WDNR through a national grant competition.
WDNR utilizes one of its designated contractors, pre-selected through a competitive procurement process, to provide timely and cost-effective Phase I and II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs). WDNR staff oversees the contracted work to make sure it meets state and federal standards. Staff further assists WAM awardees with developing a plan for moving forward in the most efficient way possible, and bringing together other local, state, and federal agency representatives to leverage funding for the remainder of the redevelopment project.
This program is especially useful for small municipalities that do not have the funds to pay for environmental assessments themselves, or for the staff to apply for and administer a federal or state grant. With WDNR administering the contract work, the program is able to greatly increase the impact of federal funding. For the same dollar amount, EPA money helps around 20 communities instead of just one. Repeated cuts in federal grants and local government budgets have made programs like WAM even more important. WDNR has been a national leader in brownfields cleanup and redevelopment programming for many years. WNDR continually seeks ways to improve and add value by providing cost-effective services for local governments to spur economic and community development.
Results to Date:
Since 2010, the EPA has awarded the WDNR $2.1 million for the WAM Program. With this funding, the WDNR has made 40 contractor service awards in 30 communities, as well as direct grants to three communities for large projects. In total, the program has completed 29 Phase I ESAs, 27 Phase II ESAs, and nine limited site investigations/remedial action plans over 550 acres. Of these awards, 78% have gone to communities under 30,000. The environmental, economic, and social impact of these dollars is many times the amount granted.
Director, Remediation and Redevelopment Program
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources