The Recovery Act One Year Later - Green Jobs and Environmental Protection in the Pacific Southwest
In the year since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) on February 17, 2009, EPA has made tremendous progress in creating green jobs and improving the quality of public health and the environment through projects supported by Recovery Act funding.
EPA received over $7 billion in stimulus funds, of which $710 million was distributed by the Pacific Southwest office to help communities throughout California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and the Pacific Island Territories.
With the stimulus money in hand, local governments and communities in the Pacific Southwest began to address a large number of environmental projects that had been awaiting funding for many years: building new public water systems, cleaning up Superfund sites, and reducing pollution at schools are among the many projects funded.
San Francisco Bay, Southern California Beaches Protected from Stormwater Pollution
In El Cerrito, California, Recovery Act funding was used to build rain gardens to detain and treat stormwater runoff, removing pesticides and other pollutants that would otherwise flow into the Bay. The rain gardens were integrated into existing sidewalks and on-street parking areas at two locations along San Pablo Avenue. These innovative rain gardens will serve as a demonstration project for other Bay Area cities.
Recovery funds were used to protect water quality along the beaches of southern California. The City of Redondo Beach, California, recently broke ground on the $2.2 million Alta Vista Park Diversion and Reuse Project, which will protect coastal waters from urban stormwater runoff, the number one cause of coastal water pollution in Southern California. The collected rainwater will be used for park irrigation instead of being discharged into the ocean, making the area healthier for swimmers, surfers and ocean life.
Air Quality Improved Near Southern California Ports
In October 2009, Administrator Lisa P. Jackson joined California Governor Schwarzenegger to announce $25 million in Recovery Act funding to reduce diesel emissions in the Southern California air basin, including over $15 million for greener trucks, locomotives, construction vehicles, and cargo handling equipment at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The projects are expected to significantly reduce particular matter (PM), nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide emissions, as well as greenhouse gas emissions, which can help to reduce premature deaths, asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments, lost work days, and many other health impacts every year.
Aging Public Water System Replaced in Live Oak, California
Recovery Act funds were used to replace large portions of the aging sewer system in the Sutter County town of Live Oak (play video), creating jobs and adding $16 million to the local economy. The Live Oak city manager estimates that completion of this project will save city residents about $70 a month on water bills. Region 9 allocated $280 million to California under the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for improvements to water infrastructure around the state.
Cleaner Air for San Diego, Phoenix, and Nevada
EPA also used the Recovery Act to improve air quality near schools. San Diego, California, used over $1.5 million to retrofit, replace, and repower 125 high-polluting school buses with newer, cleaner engines and filters. The new school buses were rolled out in July of 2009 and were the first diesel retrofit in the nation using federal stimulus funds. Reducing soot from school bus diesel exhaust helps minimize the risk of asthma and other respiratory problems in school children who ride these buses.
The Nevada Department of Environmental Quality purchased 17 new clean-diesel school buses for 15 Nevada school districts with $1.7 million in Recovery Act funding.
In Arizona, the City of Phoenix was given $800,000 to retrofit 45 pieces of city-owned diesel equipment to run on ultra-low-sulfur diesel with 20 percent biodiesel, reducing harmful air emissions throughout the city.
Sacramento River Watershed Protected
During 2009, $20.7 million of Recovery funds were used to greatly speed removal of high levels of copper and zinc in sediments in Spring Creek near Redding, California. The inactive Iron Mountain Mine Superfund site (play video) had discharged large amounts of heavy metals into Spring Creek before the flow of contaminated water was contained by EPA over the last 20 years.
This massive cleanup of Spring Creek is scheduled to be completed in May 2010, a year ahead of the original schedule. Removing toxic sediments from the creek protects the downstream Sacramento River ecosystem, a valuable commercial fishery and critical habitat for several endangered species, including the Winter Run Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Trout, and the source of drinking water for more than 70,000 people in northern California.
In addition to protecting water quality, the local economy also gained: the construction work was divided into multiple parts, resulting in twelve projects being completed by small businesses and creating or saving over 250 jobs in the area.
Brownfields Revitalized in California and Arizona
Recovery Act funds are also allowing formerly contaminated industrial properties to be redeveloped and to provide new services for low-income communities across the region.
In California, the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) used $200,000 in Recovery Act funds to clean up a 1.5 acre industrial site for redevelopment of affordable housing in the final phase of an ongoing community project. In the past, OHA partnered with a local affordable housing non-profit, the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation and a developer, the Related Companies, to clean up and transform the site into Lion Creek Crossings, which includes 367 units of mixed income housing, a park with a restored creek and wetland, and space for several non-profits including Head Start, a Boys & Girls Club, a computer lab, and a financial literacy center.
Recovery Act funds are being used to revitalize the former Holland Oil storage facility in Alameda County, California, to make way for construction of the new Ashland Youth Campus. When complete, the Campus will include a new gymnasium, an expanded and improved park, and a new Teen Center. The new facility will also assist the community by providing health services, job training and educational assistance. New jobs were created for site construction and will also be needed for operating the Center once completed.
Recovery Act funds are helping to clean up 24 sites across Arizona which have been contaminated by leaking underground storage tanks. The sites are located in rural areas and include old gas stations and other businesses. Many of the tank site cleanups have been on hold for years because federal funds were not available to support any remediation work. The stimulus funds have allowed Arizona to gain significant ground in addressing these old sites, as well as to create jobs and improve real estate values in many communities throughout the state.