The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is awarding the Sweetgrass Development Corporation (Sweetgrass) a $300,000 Brownsfield assessment grant targeting properties on the Blackfeet Reservation, and in Glacier and Toole Counties in north-central Montana.
Sweetgrass will use the EPA funds to conduct environmental site assessments and develop cleanup plans in the communities of Browning, Cut Bank, Heart Butte, and Sunburst, located along U.S. Highway 2, which leads to Glacier National Park, and Interstate 15, which leads to Canada.
“This award will allow Sweetgrass development to continue a very successful program within our five-county region. The properties identified along Highway 2 and Interstate 15 will not only assist the communities with redevelopment and increase the tax base, but tourists passing through our region will see thriving communities, places that they will want to return to visit,” said Sarah Converse, executive director of Sweetgrass Development.
The $300,000 in community-wide hazardous substances and petroleum grant funds will be used to conduct six Phase I and nine Phase II environmental site assessments and develop three cleanup plans.
Grant funds also will be used to conduct community involvement activities including six public meetings.
Sweetgrass has identified several properties as priorities for assessment, cleanup and redevelopment, including:
The Tepee, Browning: The Tepee is a well-known and highly visible property that has been formerly used as a fireworks store and coffee shop. While numerous businesses have expressed interest in redeveloping the property, the presence of asbestos and lead-based paint have prohibited reuse.
Fire Hall Property, Heart Butte: The former fire hall property has known asbestos and lead-based paint contamination. Cleanup and demolition will make the site available for a new gas station, convenience store, and a park.
Glacier Hotel, Cut Bank: The former Glacier Hotel is currently vacant and in disrepair. Previous assessments have confirmed the presence of asbestos and lead-based paint, with buildings in need of additional assessment. This site is a priority as potential redevelopment includes a shelter for women and children who are homeless or trying to escape violence.
Suta South, Sunburst: This vacant property in Sunburst, a former gas station, is the subject of redevelopment plans to create a rest area with automotive battery charging stations sourced with solar power.
A Brownsfield is a property for which the expansion, redevelopment or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.
Grants awarded by EPA’s Brownsfield Program provide communities with an opportunity to transform contaminated sites into community assets that attract jobs and achieve broader economic development outcomes while taking advantage of existing infrastructure.
Sweetgrass Development is among 149 entities selected to receive grant awards totaling over $64 million in EPA Brownsfield funding through the EPA’s Multipurpose, Assessment, and Cleanup (MAC) grant programs.
“EPA continues to support Montana communities as they clean up and redevelop properties and create much-needed services and economic opportunities for their residents,” said EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin. “We look forward to seeing the areas targeted by EPA’s grant revitalized as places where people live, work and play.”