I recently attended a luncheon where John Means, the head of Ecology’s grant program, provided some useful tips about how Ecology is managing the program. Local governments should take advantage where they can:
In the past, parties applied for grant money after they had completed their voluntary cleanup. Now, local governments can apply for grant money at the beginning or during a cleanup, which will provide more budget and planning certainty.
John said that integrated planning grants are an effective vehicle to revitalize a small city downtown, as Bothell recently did. These grants can provide the catalyst for both cleaning up a blighted or brownfield area and new development. And there is a public/private version that can be particularly effective as a stimulus for properties that are underutilized in a community.
Similarly, the area-wide groundwater contamination grants are a cost-effective tool for helping a community diagnose its groundwater problem in a systemic, rather than piecemeal way. John said that integrated planning and area-wide groundwater contamination grants have proven popular in central and eastern Washington towns, such as Palouse.
He briefly touched on the new MTCA brownfield amendments, such as the Re-development Opportunity Zones. He said that these new programs had no track record and funding them may be a challenge. Indeed, funding for the existing programs discussed above is limited this biennial budget cycle, and his advice was to get your grant application in early.