For Immediate Release
Sandy Mitchell, Baker Technical Institute, email@example.com, 541-524-2651
Baker Technical Institute and Eastern Oregon University partner to provide project-based learning opportunities for students while repurposing local properties
August 3, 2021
BAKER CITY, OR – Baker Technical Institute (BTI) is pleased to have been awarded $600,000 in brownfields redevelopment funding by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Brownfields Assessment Coalition Grant will be used to conduct both phase one and phase two environmental assessments on community properties that are currently vacant and may contain potential contaminants. Assessment activities will focus on the main commercial districts and corridors within Baker City and LaGrande. Priority sites include former gas stations, dry cleaners, auto service stations, and abandoned residential buildings. Grant funds will also support community engagement activities to develop four cleanup plans and two area-wide strategies based on the assessment findings.
A brownfield is a property that may have the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant that complicates the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of the property. Rural communities throughout Eastern Oregon have many brownfield properties that have been deemed as unusable or unhealthy, distracting from the advancement of economic development. “We are excited to work with our community partners to identify potential sites to include in our work,” says Doug Dalton, President of BTI. “We have been fortunate enough to have worked with the EPA on other brownfield projects in the region and have seen firsthand how their redevelopment can spark economic growth for a community, build stronger neighborhoods, or be the catalyst for additional redevelopment.”
Michelle Pirzadeh, EPA Acting Regional Administrator, is pleased to announce this round of Brownfields investments in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, where nine projects were funded. Nationally 154 projects were selected to receive $66.5 million. “It’s really all about our tribal, state, and local partners,” Pirzadeh said. “They have enthusiastically embraced brownfields redevelopment and its positive community impact. Time and time again, we see how strong local leadership, coupled with the infusion of federal funds, can breathe new life into idle properties.”
BTI has turned brownfield cleanup and assessment work into an educational program. Students have the opportunity to work with industry professionals and learn real career skills, such as project management, technical writing, and community collaboration in a hands-on environment to complete the redevelopment work.
Additionally, BTI has partnered with Eastern Oregon University to provide project-based learning opportunities centered around brownfields. The partnership is part of a new innovative Sustainable Rural Systems degree program offered at EOU. Students in the Sustainable Rural Systems program study all aspects of a rural community and learn to engage in authentic projects that improve the quality of life in our rural communities.
Students from both BTI and EOU will work together along with community leaders on this new EPA- funded project. “These are powerful experiences that allow students to apply what they learn in the classroom directly to real-life projects that will make a visible difference to the community,” said Peter Geissinger, College of Science, Technology, Mathematics, and Health Services at Eastern Oregon University.