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Former sawmill site in Lee County gets EPA cleanup grant

Mike Still • May 13, 2020 at 10:00 PM

JONESVILLE — A former sawmill and industrial site in Lee County has a $208,000 boost for cleanup and incorporation in a larger outdoor recreation site.

Federal Environmental Protection Agency Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio announced four Brownfields Grant awards for Southwest Virginia totaling $1.058 million during an online press conference Tuesday.

The Nature Conservancy, which owns the approximately 72-acre Russell Sawmill tract about two miles west of Jonesville, plans to use its $208,000 for cleaning up the Russell site before turning it over to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as part of the Cedars Natural Area Preserve in Lee County.

Steve Lindeman, land protection program manager with the Nature Conservancy, said the Russell site combines its location on the Daniel Boone Trail with its underlying cave network and that network’s unique inhabitant: the rare Lee County cave isopod.

The cleanup project involves removing old buildings, abandoned materials and equipment, Lindeman said. The Daniel Boone Trail Association and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality also helped with developing the grant application for the sawmill project, he added.

Lindeman said the Russell Sawmill site will add to the existing 2,090 acres of the Cedars as a natural, historical and cultural education and tourism asset.

“It’s a win for the environment and the people,” Lindeman said.

Servidio said the Southwest Virginia grant package is part of $1.7 million awarded to six communities across the state and $65.6 million nationwide to 151 communities. The grants also target economically distressed communities, he said, and Opportunity Zones where new investment could be eligible for preferential tax treatment in some cases.

Virginia 1st District Del. Terry Kilgore, R -Gate City complimented the Nature Conservancy for its work on the project.

“This is important because the Cedars property is biologically diverse,” Kilgore said, “and the Nature Conservancy has been an important partner in the region.”

The Southwest Virginia grants also include awards to Bristol, Pulaski and Saltville. The Bristol and Pulaski grants — each for $300,000 — will go toward assessing former industrial sites in those localities, while Saltville received $250,000 for cleanup of a former shop that was the site of solution salt mining contamination.

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