Congressman Greg Walden

Representing the 2nd District of Oregon

Brownfields Program boosts local economies, just look at Oregon and GP

September 10, 2017
Op-Eds

Driving along Interstate 84 through the Columbia River Gorge, it's hard not to notice the ongoing construction and cooling towers on the riverside property as you enter the west side of The Dalles. The cooling towers belong to Google's growing data center facilities built in part on former industrial lands at the Port of The Dalles. These lands were cleaned up and repurposed in part through the Brownfields Program, allowing the data center operations to expand and add 200 jobs at the site.

Across the country it is estimated there are more than 450,000 similar Brownfields sites, where the presence or potential presence of hazardous materials or pollutants may complicate redevelopment. In Oregon and elsewhere, the Brownfields Program is an important tool to improve the environment, reuse industrial land and grow local economies.

The Dalles and Wasco County have taken full advantage of the program, turning some of their former industrial lands into an economic opportunity, creating not only jobs, but important revenue streams to continue providing essential public services.

In Southern Oregon, the city of Grants Pass is in the early stages of working towards the same goal. They've successfully secured assistance through the Brownfields Program to begin planning the cleanup and redevelopment of the old Spalding Mill industrial site.

I recently visited the site and heard from city officials about their plans for the future. They are seizing the opportunity to help put the Spalding Mill site back into productive use and help create jobs and boost the economy in Grants Pass. I look forward to Grants Pass joining the list of successful Brownfields projects.

We have had a great track record in Oregon using the federal Brownfields Program to redevelop contaminated sites and put them back into active use. As the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House, I made modernizing and improving this program a priority.

After months of hearings and work, in June the committee unanimously passed the Brownfields Enhancement, Economic Development, and Reauthorization Act. Soon, the House will vote on our legislation. This bipartisan bill reauthorizes the Brownfields Program for the first time since 2006, and makes it easier for smaller communities — like those in our part of Oregon — to participate in Brownfields cleanup.

Importantly, this bill also boosts the grant funding available to assist communities using the Brownfields Program for economic development. This proven partnership among federal, state, local and private entities leverages resources to improve the environment and grow jobs.

The proof is on the ground in places like Grants Pass, The Dalles and throughout the country where we know cleaning up Brownfields sites can stimulate economic growth, create jobs and attract new business. I will continue to work to ensure communities in Oregon and across America can make use of this important program.

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Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) represents Oregon's 2nd Congressional District, which includes Josephine County and 19 other counties in central, southern and eastern Oregon.