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News Releases from Region 08

EPA provides $800K to advance the cleanup and revitalization of properties in Great Falls and north central Montana

Contact Information: 
U.S. EPA: Danny Heffernan (heffernan.daniel@epa.gov)
Great Falls Development Authority: Lillian Sunwall (lsunwall@gfdevelopment.org)
Sweetgrass Development: Sarah Converse (sweetgrassdevelopment@gmail.com)

Brownfields grants to the Great Falls Development Authority and Sweetgrass Development part of $54 million to clean up and redevelop sites across the country

(Denver, Colo. - May 28, 2015) At a ceremony at the Celtic Cowboy restaurant in downtown Great Falls, Mont., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regional administrator Shaun McGrath today presented the Great Falls Development Authority and Sweetgrass Development $400K each in Brownfields grant funds. The $800K in EPA grant resources will be used by both organizations to expand local efforts to assess, clean up and redevelop properties throughout Great Falls and surrounding counties. Today's announcement is among 243 EPA grant investments totaling $54.3 million to 147 communities across the U.S. These grants will provide communities with funding necessary to assess, clean and redevelop contaminated properties, boost local economies and leverage jobs while protecting public health and the environment.

"EPA Brownfields grants are opening doors by helping Montana's communities transform blighted properties into economic assets," said EPA regional administrator, Shaun McGrath. "These grant awards reflect the strength of the development partnerships between local governments, nonprofits and businesses in Great Falls and counties in north central Montana. EPA is proud to be part of these efforts to address contamination and create new opportunities for people to live, play, and do business."

The Great Falls Development Authority was originally awarded an EPA Brownfields grant in 2003 to assess environmental conditions at several sites in and around the riverfront area of Great Falls. As a result of these assessments, GFDA was subsequently awarded grants to develop a loan fund to facilitate the reuse and redevelopment of properties throughout the city. GFDA and the City of Great Falls have since had tremendous success working with community and local business interests to use these funds to redevelop several downtown properties. Previous projects include properties that are home to the Great Falls Food Bank and the Easter Seals-Goodwill building, among others. The location of today's event, the Celtic Cowboy, is the site of a former EPA-supported Brownfields project which involved the transformation of the city's oldest building, the formerly abandoned Arvon Block Building on First Avenue.

The Great Falls Development Authority will use today's EPA grant award of $400K to conduct environmental assessments that will identify environmental cleanup requirements at several properties and pave the way for private funding for additional revitalization projects. These projects include targeted assessments of downtown properties for asbestos, lead and petroleum contamination.

"This Brownfields assessment grant will provide a greatly needed tool to revitalize downtown and to leverage its brownfields revolving loan fund with public and private investment for redevelopment," said Lillian Sunwall, project manager for the Great Falls Development Authority. "We are looking forward to building on the success that has been created by the completed brownfields projects."

Sweetgrass Development, the regional economic development organization serving north central Montana, including Cascade, Glacier, Pondera, Teton and Toole Counties, as well as the Blackfeet Reservation, is also receiving $400K in EPA Brownfields grants to assess several sites for environmental contamination that have been targeted for redevelopment. Sweetgrass Development recently worked with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to complete an inventory of Brownfields sites and has identified more than 150 locations where potential contamination is hindering the sale or redevelopment of property. Potential project locations include vacant and abandoned gas stations, automotive shops, railroad facilities and downtown buildings. These assessments will leverage cleanups and help local governments advance plans for new retail, small business and housing opportunities in communities like Browning and Choteau.

"Sweetgrass Development has utilized the EPA targeted brownfields assessment program and believes that these funds will allow greater redevelopment within the region," said Sarah Converse, executive director of Sweetgrass Development. "These monies will be used to assist small business and property owners as well as partner with the Blackfeet Environmental Office to coordinate the assessment of trust and fee land on the Reservation."

There are an estimated 450,000 abandoned and contaminated sites in the United States. EPA's Brownfields Program empowers states, communities, and other stakeholders to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse these sites. Since the inception of the EPA's Brownfields Program in 1995, cumulative brownfield program investments have leveraged more than $22 billion from a variety of public and private sources for cleanup and redevelopment activities. This equates to an average of $17.79 leveraged per EPA brownfield dollar expended. These investments have resulted in approximately 105,942 jobs nationwide.

More information on Brownfields grants by state: http://cfpub.epa.gov/bf_factsheets/

More Brownfields information:
Program http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/
Success Stories http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/success/index.htm