Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Cleaning Up: From RAGs to (environmental) riches

Ecology passes nearly 70 percent of the agency's $1.4 billion budget directly to local communities and governments.
The Port of Everett is using a Remedial Action Grant for a dredging project.

That money pays for a variety of other environmental work -- cleaning up contaminated sites, managing polluted stormwater runoff, preventing floods, managing garbage and wastewater, and more.

Remedial Action Grants, or RAGs, are significant tools for cleanups. Local governments -- port districts, cities, counties, and others -- use the grants to help reimburse some of their costs for cleaning up publicly owned properties.

Grants encourage cleanup

Cleanups aren't cheap -- they can cost tens of millions of dollars. By providing Remedial Action Grants, our Toxics Cleanup Program encourages environmental cleanup and supports local governments that want to redevelop contaminated properties they own. Funding for the grants comes from a voter-approved tax on hazardous substances as provided in the state's cleanup law, the Model Toxics Control Act.

Skagit County is using an old truck stop site for a new jail.
Without such aid, local governments might put off cleanup projects because of the expense. The grants give public entities confidence that they won't take on the entire project cost alone. (Local governments can also receive payments from former property owners or others who contributed to the pollution at a site, and from insurance policies.)

Typically, the grants reimburse 50 percent of a public entity's eligible costs. But reimbursement could go as high as 90 percent, if the local government is located in an area that's designated as "economically distressed."

Skagit County is one of the local governments using a 90 percent RAG. The county searched for a site for a new jail and eventually settled on the former Truck City truck stop site in south Mount Vernon.

Work is continuing on the new Skagit County jail.
The county bought the site in 2015. Truck City had operated for more than 30 years, with an on-site gas station, underground fuel storage tanks, truck weigh station, washing facilities, and more.

Activities at the site left pollution behind, so the county received a Remedial Action Grant to help pay for cleanup. The county's new jail is on track to open in spring 2017.

Clearing the way

Skagit County is just one example of a Remedial Action Grant in action. Dozens of the grants support projects in motion throughout the state, and helped fund completed projects.

Dredging will remove contamination around Pacific Terminal.
In Snohomish County, the Port of Everett is getting ready to start a dredging project at the former Weyerhaeuser Mill A site on Port Gardner Bay.

The dredging will remove tons of contaminated sediments from the water, plus improve navigational access to the port's Pacific TerminalThe port uses the site for handling cargo for construction and manufacturing industries, including parts for The Boeing Co.’s jetliners.

Work is expected to start in August and continue into the fall.

By Seth Preston, Toxics Cleanup Program communications manager

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