Wetlands – Mitigation
As a result of an Executive Order from the President of the United States, the USACE/COE and the EPA reached an interagency agreement that mandated “NO NET LOSS” of wetlands nationwide for the USACE/COE permit program. This agreement mandates a significant reduction in wetland loss by avoidance, minimization, and mitigation (i.e., creation or enhancement of wetlands) to become part of nearly every USACE/COE permit action to compensate for the unavoidable loss of wetlands across the nation.
Mitigation may include physical creation of wetlands from low value upland areas or may include enhancement or conservation of other existing wetlands. Generally, a lower mitigation ratio is required for actual wetland creation than for enhancement or conservation of existing wetlands.
Compensatory mitigation is now dictated by the 2008 Compensatory Mitigation Rule (33 CFR 325 and 332). The rule establishes a general hierarchy of preference for use of mitigation banks, in-lieu fee programs, and permittee-responsible mitigation in that order.
Mitigation Banking Concept
The concept of mitigation banking is intended to provide a large-scale mitigation program that is much less expensive on a unit basis than are smaller, individual mitigation programs. Another important benefit to the concept is that the mitigation bank is physically in place and the value of the unit credits has been established and accepted by the regulatory agencies, resulting in reduced permit negotiation time. Mitigation costs are also better defined and not subject to land cost fluctuations or construction overruns. A large, well-designed and managed wetland area is also more ecologically valuable than numerous, small wetland areas created for individual mitigation requirements.
A mitigation bank is designed to establish wetland credits that can be drawn upon over time, much like an escrow account at a financial institution. In the case of a financial escrow account, money is deposited in the account in advance, then draws are made on the account over time as financial resources are needed. The escrow account is managed by a financial institution that keeps track of the draws and balance. Fundamentally, a wetland mitigation bank operates in much the same way. Wetlands are created, enhanced, or conserved in advance, thus establishing mitigation credits. As development projects in the planning region require mitigation for wetland impacts, credits are drawn from the mitigation bank. A management entity is established to meter out the credits and keep an accounting of the draws and balance. The primary difference between a financial escrow account and a wetlands mitigation bank is that wetlands do not necessarily have a predetermined value and the expenditure of wetlands (i.e., impacts) is regulated by federal law. Therefore, a mitigation bank requires considerable planning, design, and regulatory review and approval prior to its establishment in order that values can be ascribed to its various wetlands and to ensure that the credit system will be accepted by the regulatory agencies.
Mitigation banking procedures are defined in the 2008 Compensatory Mitigation Rule (33 CFR 325 and 332).
Wetlands and Streams
Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (Seagrass)
Beneficial Use of Dredge Material (BU)
Natural Area Protection Plans
Transplant Survival Survey
Restoration and Enhancement
Planting of Trees
State Wetland and Stream Functional Assessment
USACE Stream Condition Assessments
Texas Rapid Assessment Modeling