16, 2002 — Brownfields are defined as abandoned, idled, or under-used
industrial and commercial facilities where expansion or redevelopment
is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination. While
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has primary authority and responsibility
for identifying and cleaning up contaminated sites, opportunities to provide
local communities assistance in revitalizing brownfield communities extend
to the entire federal family. NOAA
partnered with EPA to address brownfields redevelopment (at both national
and local levels) and to balance environmental and economic needs and
surrounding Brownfield sites often see higher unemployment rates, lower
property values and an increase in health problems. Furthermore, these
abandoned properties can force new development to the fringe of existing
urban areas, often resulting in urban sprawl and degradation of natural
resources (e.g., reduced air and water quality).
Many of the
communities bear the scars of past economic booms as former industrial
sites along ports, harbors and other coastal areas now lay abandoned.
Although redeveloping these brownfields could economically and visually
revitalize numerous urban waterfronts, developers have few incentives
to invest in these blighted areas. NOAA, on the other hand, sees their
redevelopment as a unique opportunity to revitalize coastal areas using
existing infrastructure and transportation modes, while preserving valuable
green space and restoring natural resources. Brownfields clean up and
redevelopment can improve public access to the waterfront, improve the
quality of nearshore habitat and open fisheries
that were closed due to contamination concerns.
Offices Involved in Brownfield Activities
of brownfields sites remain where industries were historically located
along waterways. Cleaning up and redeveloping coastal brownfields expands
local economies, improves public access to the coast, restores coastal
natural resources and revitalizes waterfronts. NOAA’s experience
in solving critical environmental challenges, combined with its role as
the nation’s primary coastal stewardship agency, make it uniquely
qualified to address brownfield issues in the nation’s coastal communities.
the Department of Commerce and NOAA have contributed funding, facilitation
and/or technical expertise at coastal brownfields sites in New Jersey,
New York, Virginia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Alaska, California and other
states. Specifically, the following four NOAA offices assisted coastal
communities regarding brownfield issues:
NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration
protects and restores contaminated coastal resources and habitats (including
brownfields) by first assessing and evaluating risks and then implementing
cost-effective environmental cleanup and restoration solutions.
of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management,
in its implementation of the Coastal Zone Management Act, provides funding
to coastal states for brownfields redevelopment as part of waterfront
NOAA’s Office of Sustainable Development and Intergovernmental
has provided funding to and sponsored workshops for coastal cities (both
small and large) to assist them in more thoroughly planning their brownfields
NOAA’s Coastal Services Center
helps develop the expertise of coastal resource professionals by giving
them the tools to engage communities in land and water issues, including
the redevelopment of brownfields. Through Center-led workshops, planners
and managers build valuable skills to help local governments collaborate
with the public and manage conflict.
these four NOAA offices actively support the National Brownfields Initiative
by: 1) participating in EPA’s Brownfields Showcase Community Program,
2) signing cooperative NOAA/EPA Memorandums of Understanding pertaining
to brownfield issues, 3) application of NOAA’s Coastal Zone Management
Act and Superfund Mandate and 4) supporting brownfields redevelopment
through the Smart Growth Network:
NOAA’s Participation in EPA’s Brownfields Showcase Community
works with other agencies to achieve its goals in cleaning up and revitalizing
brownfields. This occurs either on a case-by-case basis as opportunities
are identified or through a highly structured program, such as EPA’s
Brownfields Showcase Communities program. Once a Showcase Community has
been selected, it receives coordinated federal assistance from all relevant
agencies. As a result, the Showcase Community receives the resources and
technical expertise needed to revitalize once idle and blighted land and
serves as a model for community-based clean up and redevelopment at other
brownfield communities. NOAA has been working in coastal brownfield communities
to provide advice on cleaning up and restoring contaminated coastal areas
and to sponsor local workshops focusing on brownfields restoration, revitalizing
waterfronts, and redeveloping sites through effective coastal zone management.
Workshops conducted in Glen Cove, N.Y., Providence, R.I., Stanford, Conn.,
and East Palo Alto, Calif., successfully brought together federal, state
and local officials to discuss brownfield issues in these coastal areas.
The workshops also provided an opportunity to further define the role
of NOAA and state CZM programs in the brownfields initiative.
are detailed descriptions of three coastal communities that are successfully
resolving brownfield issues with assistance from NOAA (i.e., New Bedford,
Mass., Glen Cove, N.Y., and Metlakatla, Alaska):
New Bedford, Mass.,
serves as an excellent example of the redevelopment issues faced by
many coastal communities (i.e., a depressed economy, contaminated harbors
and nearby waterways, and acres upon acres of brownfields sites occupying
once viable city grounds). NOAA has delivered environmental solutions
to contaminant problems in New Bedford since the late 1980s, beginning
with the New Bedford Harbor Superfund site. With NOAA’s help,
New Bedford became a Brownfields Showcase Community in 2000, and NOAA
is still helping to restore New Bedford today. NOAA’s ORR has
placed a brownfields coordinator in the community to support the local
Brownfields task force in the following areas: assess and safely clean
up coastal contamination to revitalize New Bedford’s environment
and economy; promote the compatible and sustainable use of coastal areas
for New Bedford urban fisheries, port and industrial activities, recreation,
and tourism; give New Bedford access to the Department of Commerce and
other federal programs that fund economic redevelopment and training
programs; train New Bedford communities (along with local and state
agencies) to assess, clean up and redevelop Brownfields; plan and implement
environmental restoration; and use decision-making database and mapping
tools. The New Bedford Brownfields task force has now developed a prioritized
list of Brownfields sites. The city has successfully redeveloped some
of these sites and is working with NOAA and other stakeholder groups
to facilitate clean up and redevelopment of additional priority sites
— some of which have already been cleaned up and redeveloped.
Cove, N.Y., is a small city located on the north shore
of Long Island. Parks, public beaches, nature preserves and private
homes span eight miles of the city’s shoreline. However, most
of the remaining one mile of shoreline — the historically industrialized
Glen Cove Creek waterfront — is comprised of contaminated, abandoned
and underused properties (i.e., two federal Superfund sites, a New York
State Inactive Hazardous Waste site and a number of brownfields). In
addition to the abandoned properties, the city was also faced with a
waterway that hadn't been dredged in 30 years, crumbling bulkheads,
and non-point source pollution and sediment that was entering the creek
unabated. As a result, the Glen Cove Creek Waterfront Revitalization
Plan was developed in 1993 to address the clean up and redevelopment
of 214 acres of the waterfront. In 1997, the city received a Brownfields
Pilot Grant from EPA and in 1998 Glen Cove was designated a Brownfields
Showcase Community by the Brownfields National Partnership.
Both NOAA’s SDIA and OCRM (in collaboration with the New York
State Coastal Management Program) assisted in developing and implementing
the Glen Cove Creek Waterfront Revitalization Plan by supporting several
annual “Commitment to Action” workshops (from 1995 to 1999).
These workshops brought together federal, state and local partners to
focus support on implementing this plan. In the end, the workshops provided
a roadmap for the community’s vision; helped the city understand
the role and jurisdiction of various players; identified technical expertise
and additional funding resources; and assisted in establishing long-term
partnerships between relevant local, state and federal agencies.
NOAA’s ORR also continues to provide technical assistance during
Glen Cove’s revitalization efforts. Specifically, ORR worked with
the city (as well as EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers, and others) to
plan clean up actions and habitat restoration along Glen Cove Creek.
NOAA provided the technical support needed to clean up two Superfund
sites on the creek and is working with partners to integrate habitat
restoration and natural resource recovery into this effort.
the private development that has resulted includes the opening of
a new restaurant near a waterfront, the expansion of several marinas,
a high speed ferry service to Manhattan and future plans for another
ferry service to Connecticut. The city is also soliciting for a hotel,
conference center and mixed use development for one of the Brownfields
is a small Native American fishing community in the southeastern
part of Alaska. Facilities run by the military, FAA and Coast Guard
released contamination to the environment. As a result, the local population
has stopped fishing close to shore for fear of consuming unhealthy fish
and shellfish. NOAA’s ORR (in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry)
conducted a survey of the locally available seafood to see if and how
it might be contaminated with harmful substances leaking from the land.
The local community also contributed by providing the boats and local
guides to help NOAA scientists conduct the survey. NOAA’s SDIA
also contributed funding for this effort.
NOAA/EPA Bownfields Memorandum of Understanding
these efforts, there is still a need for a more comprehensive approach
to dealing with brownfields redevelopment across the nation. Toward this
end, NOAA and EPA are drafting a newly revised
MOU that empowers NOAA to partner with EPA to comprehensively address
brownfields redevelopment (NOAA and EPA originally signed their first
brownfields MOU in 1997). The purpose of this MOU is to establish policies
and procedures for a general working agreement between EPA’s Office
of Solid Waste and Emergency Response and NOAA in support of the National
3) NOAA’s Coastal Zone Management Act and Superfund Mandates
under its Coastal
Zone Management Act responsibilities, has a 30-year history of working
with coastal states to support effective local planning. Specifically,
coastal zone management plans provide a framework for successful economic
development and the maintenance of environmental quality at the state
and local level. Thirty-three coastal states and territories (covering
99 percent of the nation's ocean and Great Lakes coasts) have approved
coastal zone management plans.
responsibilities under the Superfund Act are to protect and restore natural resources. As a natural resource
trustee, NOAA provides advice and support to coastal communities and EPA
on Brownfields clean up and restoration. ORR is currently providing this
support in 28 coastal communities in 15 states.
4) NOAA Supports the Smart Growth Network
NOAA also supports brownfields redevelopment through the Smart
Growth Network, a collection of organizations promoting smart growth.
Smart growth is an approach that considers environmental, social and economic
implications of development. When coastal communities redevelop brownfields,
they "strengthen and direct development toward existing communities,"
which is one of the principles endorsed by the network. In addition, if
paired with a land conservation approach, developing brownfields can offset
pressure for developing greenfields (such as farms and forests). NOAA,
through the Coastal Services Center, is a partner of the Smart Growth
Network, which provides information and resources for communities on brownfields
redevelopment and other tools to support smart growth.
In the future, NOAA will continue working to expand its activities at
coastal Brownfields sites. Activities may include:
with partners to assess and safely clean up coastal contamination to
revitalize local economies.
the compatible and sustainable use of coastal areas for urban fisheries,
port and industrial activities, recreation and tourism.
access to the Department of Commerce and other federal programs that
offer funding and technical assistance for economic redevelopment and
and delivering a decision-making database and mapping tools to assist
in repairing sites and restoring habitat.
communities and local and state agencies in assessing, cleaning up and
redeveloping brownfields; planning and implementing environmental restoration;
and using decision-making software tools.
expertise in advanced marine transportation tools and services that
will revitalize communities.
NOAA Brings to the Table for Coastal Revitalization
its coastal focus and experience in solving critical environmental
challenges, combined with its position within the Department of
Commerce, NOAA balances environmental and economic needs:
NOAA expertise improves clean up and redevelopment and expedites
benefits local economies and improves quality of life in coastal
communities by applying sustainable and economic development programs.
sponsors local workshops focusing on brownfields revitalization.
These workshops help communities gather input from all parties
involved in the revitalization process, creating strong partnerships
for more efficient action.
rebuilds community waterfronts and redevelops Brownfields sites
through its strong partnerships with coastal states’ coastal
zone management programs.
revitalizes port areas though the use of advanced marine transportation
tools and services.
working with local communities and other agencies on coastal Brownfield
sites, NOAA helps to improve quality of life, the environment,
and the regional economy.
by NOAA’s Office of Sustainable Development and Intergovernmental
to Working Waterfront: New York Helps Revitalize Community’s Coast
of David A. Sampson, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development. U.S.
Department of Commerce. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
Wednesday, March 6, 2002.
Local Economies and Improving Quality of Life — General Information
about NOAA's Brownfield Activities (PDF)
Local Economies and Improving Quality of Life — Glen Cove, New York
Local Economies and Improving Quality of Life — New Bedford, Massachusetts
National Dimension Promoting Sustainable Communities. NOAA sponsored workshops
in five coastal communities (PDF)
Glenda Tyson, NOAA's Ocean Service,