The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently provided a $600,000 grant to spur economic development and revitalize underdeveloped parcels in and around The Dalles. The grant went to Wasco County, the City of The Dalles and the Port of The Dalles, and last year those entities formed the Brownfields Revitalization Committee (Coalition) to identify and prioritize parcels for funding, according to a press release from the City of The Dalles.

The coalition is currently working with several property owners on redevelopment planning and is seeking others, including those with parcels that could benefit from environmental site assessment.

A “brownfield” is property where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by actual or perceived environmental issues. By completing environmental site studies that aid in overcoming redevelopment challenges, it is possible to transform brownfields from liabilities into assets that will benefit both property owners and the community.

To date, the coalition has awarded funding aimed at meeting identified community needs. The owners of Last Stop Saloon, Todd Carpenter and Carla McQuade, saw the impact of a lack of housing on service workers in The Dalles. With that in mind, they have undertaken the initial steps to redevelop the upper floors of the Last Stop into attainable housing. Working with the coalition, they are undertaking an environmental analysis to understand any barriers to redevelopment. They are also using the program to develop a floor plan for the project.

“We desperately need housing in our community, and we need to pull out all the stops to get there,” Carpenter said. “I am grateful for the boost the Coalition gave me both to understand development constraints and drawing up plans for the space. It is the kind of forward thinking, creative thinking we need as a community.”

In this time of COVID, the funding is also being leveraged by the county to upgrade a space for North Central Public Health. In particular, through the coalition, the county is conducting a Phase I environmental assessment and hazardous materials survey on one of its properties. These assessments are the first steps in leveraging additional cleanup funding from the State of Oregon.

One common contamination source in older communities is underground tanks used to store fuel, and it came as no surprise that such a tank existed under the old Tony’s Town and Country Building. With the Urban Renewal agency moving forward on redevelopment of the site, they were able to leverage Coalition resources to assist in the removal of that tank and get an assessment of the contamination.

The project is also helping bring new economic life to the area. Dirt Hugger is a home-grown business that makes high quality compost and soil products for the orchard, garden, construction and farming community. Dirt Hugger recently acquired a property on the west end of The Dalles, which was a former auto-wrecking yard. The funds are helping Dirt Hugger assess and fully redevelop the site.

“The Brownfield funds are going to help us go through the steps to rehabilitate and get full environmental clearance on a 60 year old wrecking yard site,” said Pierce Louis, founder of Dirt Hugger. “Moreover, the Coalition is offering helpful guidance through this technical process. We are excited to restore this land and make it economically and environmentally productive.”

If you have a property you would like to redevelop or understand a bit more, the Coalition would love to help. Contact the Brownfield Revitalization Coordinator, Jim Schwinof at 541-296-5481, ext 1131 or email for more information.