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Public Statements

Introduction of the Waterfront Brownfields Revitalization Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. SLAUGHTER. Mr. Speaker, today I am proud to reintroduce the Waterfront Brownfields Revitalization Act. This bill will authorize a much needed grant program to assist communities that are overcoming the unique challenges of waterfront brownfields and fostering innovative approaches to remediation.
America's industrial heritage was established along the banks of its rivers, lakes and coasts. Our nation's vast and interconnected natural water system helped provide the power that fueled our rise to international prominence, and allowed us to move our manufactured goods efficiently to all corners of the country.

However, that legacy also includes many decades of environmental contamination on the waterfront. Abandoned factories, dilapidated mills and underutilized ports can be found along the shores of many metropolitan areas. As localities seek to reconnect with their waterfronts and revitalize their downtowns, brownfield barriers threaten to derail community efforts to create jobs, promote recreational opportunities, restore the ecology, increase tourism, and grow their tax base.

Waterfront brownfields present challenges beyond typical environmental assessment and cleanup projects. Hydrology, water quality, wetlands, endangered species, habitat, dredged materials, flooding, environmental infrastructure, navigation, and other considerations must be carefully addressed so as not to exacerbate existing site contamination. Typically, waterfront brownfields require the involvement of multiple governmental agencies. As such, waterfront brownfields require special attention and resources to overcome their larger hurdles.

In my own district, the City of Rochester, NY is currently working to revitalize its beautiful waterfront, while attempting to cope with the unique challenges that waterfront brownfields present. The city is undertaking a major community revitalization strategy to redevelop its port and waterfront area into a mixed use development, which will include housing, commercial, retail, and educational uses, enhanced recreation, new parks and open space, and improved public access to Lake Ontario, the Genesee River and the surrounding ecosystem. However, because the Port of Rochester and surrounding waterways were used extensively for industrial purposes from the late 1800s into the first half of the 20th century, significant environmental remediation will be required prior to redevelopment.

Mr. Speaker, Rochester is not alone in facing these types of complicated and expensive challenges to redevelopment. Cities all across the country are dealing with similar roadblocks as they try to engage corporate waterfront real estate into their redevelopment plans, from Yuma, AZ and Portland, OR in the west, to Savannah, GA, and Philadelphia, PA in the east, and almost everywhere in between where lakes and rivers exist.

My bill recognizes that the federal government can be an effective partner to communities interested in reconnecting with their waterfronts. Specifically, this legislation would authorize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish a waterfront brownfields pilot demonstration program to provide localities and other eligible entities with up to $500,000 to assess and cleanup waterfront brownfields. The bill would also establish an interagency taskforce on waterfront brownfields restoration to identify barriers and potential solutions to waterfront brownfields revitalization, and seek methods for federal interagency collaboration on such projects.

As cities across the country struggle to thrive in a changing global economy, and as our communities work to rebuild local economies, it is imperative that Congress do all that it can to help these cities redevelop and succeed.

Industrialization and manufacturing helped make this country the power that it is today and remediating the contamination left behind will revive areas in cities across the nation that once were feared to be lost. This legislation will give these cities the flexibility and support they need to redevelop in an environmentally safe way, and utilize their waterfront as an incredible economic asset. I urge my colleagues to show their support for these communities by supporting this bill.

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