MONROE, La. — University of Louisiana Monroe associate professor of political science, John W. Sutherlin, is a leading proponent of brownfields redevelopment, having inspected more than 300 brownfields sites across the U.S. and Europe since 2000.
Brownfields are polluted properties that are eligible for federal clean-up monies that can be redeveloped and reused for projects ranging from green space to job training facilities or even to large industrial or commercial facilities. Several sites in Monroe and West Monroe were redeveloped through the brownfields redevelopment program, as well as most of the river walk area in Shreveport.
“Brownfields provide a chance for ULM professors from different disciplines to work together to reduce health impacts of pollution and return properties back to productive use,” said Sutherlin.
Sutherlin, who is also the director of ULM’s Social Science Research Lab (SSRL), has been working through the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) to coordinate more federal agency involvement.
After several months of coordination and conference calls, on October 12, 2016, Sutherlin finally managed to meet with 22 federal departments and agencies in Washington, D.C. to discuss how to move this network of interested parties forward.
Agencies as diverse as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Labor, and the Economic Development Administration came together to find ways to help communities identify brownfields opportunities and submit EPA grant applications or seek funding from other departments or agencies.
“In our discussions, it became clear that we were all working on different aspects of the same issue,” said Sutherlin. “But, in many cases we were unaware of other funding opportunities. This allowed us to collaborate across different fields of expertise.”
The collaboration will continue through the newly established brownfields network that will meet quarterly to develop grant guidelines.
Grants for this cycle include applicants from Bastrop, Delhi, and Mansfield, but Sutherlin urges that other communities take initiative as well.
“This will directly impact all communities that apply for annual funding through EPA Brownfields,” said Sutherlin.