Wetland Mitigation Banking Strategies

Environmental Training Resource
December 12, 2012 — 905 views  
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Wetlands mitigation requires the replacement of wetlands that are drained or filled with a similar sized wetland in another location. These requirements are part of the Clean Water Act and enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency although other federal and state agencies may be involved.

For example, an airport may wish to drain a wetland near the runways to reduce the number of birds in the area and the potential for bird-aircraft collisions. The airport would be required to create a similar sized wetland at another location to offset or mitigate or reduction in habitat.

It would be unlikely to find a wetland restoration project the exact same size as the wetland being drained. In addition, larger restoration projects are more cost effective reducing the overall price per acre for the project. The federal government allows these larger projects to be banked for future use. In this case the bank contains deposits of credits for acres of restored wetlands rather than financial deposits.

The mitigation banks can include restored acres from a number of federal, state and local agencies. The credits can be purchased from the bank by other organizations as they need them to complete wetland drainage projects. The purchase price of the credit then reimburses the agency that did the wetland restoration creating the credit.

In the previous example, the airport could purchase credit for two acres of wetlands restoration from the mitigation bank fulfilling its obligation to maintain the same total acreage of wetlands.

The wetlands mitigation bank concept offers some distinct advantages for all involved. Local agencies rarely have personnel with skills to accomplish a wetlands mitigation project. In some cases the process of identifying and planning the mitigation project may delay construction of the primary project.

Allowing larger agencies that have the expertise in wetland restoration to create large-scale projects is more efficient and reduces the cost per acre. These agencies recover their expenses when the other agencies purchase the credits.

In addition, large scale wetland restorations often provide better habitat for wildlife and are more sustainable than small sized wetlands.

The wetlands mitigation bank process is regulated by the EPA and other agencies. In most cases, the banked wetland acres must be in the same ecosystem as the drained or filled wetlands. In other cases, draining highly valuable wetlands, wetlands that offer rare or unique environmental aspects, may require the replacement of more than one acre for each acre drained.

 

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