Five counties in rural Southern Nevada and part of California have joined together for a Brownfields grant.

Ilene Christiansen, of the Rural Desert Southwest Brownfields Coalition told Lincoln County Commissioners Sept. 16, it was the first time such a coalition had been formed as well as crossing over into two states.

She explained Inyo (Calif.) County was also included with Lincoln, White Pine, Esmeralda, and Nye, because they were having similar challenges to redevelopment as the others in Nevada.

Part of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Brownfields program provides direct funding for brownfields assessment, cleanup, revolving loans, and environmental job training.

Since its inception in 1995, EPA’s Brownfields Program has grown into a proven, results-oriented program that has changed the way contaminated property is perceived, addressed, and managed. EPA’s Brownfields Program is designed to empower states, communities, and other stakeholders in economic redevelopment to work together in a timely manner to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields. A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. It is estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the U.S.

In 2011, the Nevada-California coalition was awarded a $1 million grant to assess projects in the area, Christiansen said, “take a look at what the potential was for redevelopment and how that redevelopment could be coordinated among the different counties.”

She said the solar renewable energy potential in all the counties, except White Pine, is “phenomenal.”

And there are other specific possible opportunities that have been evaluated for other types of renewable energy development in other counties, some for biomass, some for wind, some for solar, some for geothermal, she said.

Christiansen said the first grant the coalition received was intended for the first phase, “to evaluate what Brownfields sites are there and what are the are the resources in the area.”

An area-wide draft plan was then developed from the information gathered from each county and identified one property in each county, “not only for renewable energy potential, but how can we protect and serve the communities that were under this grant.”

A copy of the draft plan is available at the County Planning Department in Pioche. Nine projects have been addressed by the Coalition.

Commissioners joined in with other members of the coalition and approved the Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund Memorandum of Agreement. Commissioners Paul Mathews and Kevin Phillips were absent.

Christiansen said other objectives of the program being looked at are, “pulling in at least $5 million in additional revenue for the grant investment, targeting 50 acres for redevelopment, ideally as greenspace, or a commercial or industrial scale. Brownfields is meant to be an economic development tool.”

In the nine projects that have been assessed, Christiansen said, there have been 31 other parcels associated with the nine sites.

Phase II of the project is underway now in each of the nine sites, and they have about  $100,000 remaining. Christiansen said. “We completed our initial goal,” she said, “and did it pretty efficiently. EPA was very impressed.”

Pahranagat Valley High principal Mike Strong said one of the assessed sites was a building used for storage at the school that was once a barracks at Nellis Air Force Base. He said asbestos was removed from the building this summer.