What is mitigation banking?
Mitigation banking promotes the restoration, creation, enhancement and/or preservation of wetlands, as well as the restoration and/or preservation of streams through economic incentives. Banking is a method setup by federal and state agencies to enable the trading of wetland and stream credits (also called compensatory mitigation credits), in order to offset impacts to wetlands and stream caused by development projects (e.g. schools, roads and bridges, subdivisions, business parks, etc.). A government agency, corporation, nonprofit organization, or other entity creates mitigation banks, which require credits for a particular project(s) or may be created for sale on the open market. Mitigation banks service only a given geographic area, which are defined by a watershed unit. The entity undertakes these activities under a formal agreement with regulatory agencies, known as the Interagency Review Team (IRT).
How are mitigation banks used?
Any individual or entity conducting land-disturbing activities that impacts wetlands and/or streams require permits from federal and state agencies. Those permits carry a requirement that the permittee provide replacement (compensation) for those impacts in like kind. One of the methods for providing mitigation is the purchase of credits from a commercial mitigation bank.
Within the past year, mitigation banks have become the preferred method of compensation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one of the main permitting agencies, and thus compensatory mitigation banking credits have become more vital to development project in Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as other states.
What are the benefits of mitigation banks?
Mitigation banks are created in advance of the impact for which credits are purchased, thus no loss of functions and values of wetland or streams are incurred as a result of a development project. They provide some of following benefits for society and the environment:
- Water quality benefits
- Flood storage, groundwater recharge, sequestering and storage of sediment
- Shoreline erosion protection
- Economic Benefits (i.e. supports a diverse food web, which creates huge quantities of food, renewable resources, etc.)
- Wildlife habitat for many plants and animals, some of which are rare, threatened or endangered species.
- Recreational activities, education and research opportunities
Mitigation banks also provide an opportunity for ecoentrepreneurs to realize economic benefit from an alternate use of their land through a perpetual easement over the restoration, creation, enhancement and/or preservation of wetlands, and/or the restoration and/or preservation of streams.
How can your land further benefit you?
By establishing a mitigation bank, landowners can not only protect their land from future development under a perpetual conservation easement, but also provide significant financial benefits through the sale of compensatory wetland or stream credits. Landowner’s still retain rights to passively use their property as open space for hunting, hiking, bird watching, and other activities, while protecting their land and the environment for the future generations.
Where do you start?
Assess your property by asking the following questions:
- Do portions of your property flood or are they mapped by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a part of a floodplain (50 or 100 year)?
- Are streams located along or on your property— from large, Rappahannock River, to small tributaries, unnamed?
- Are areas of your property drained by ditches or drain tiles?
- Do you have a large pond that is fed by a stream or located in a stream?
If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, your property may have the potential for establishing a mitigation bank. Should you wish to pursue further evaluation of your property and it’s potential for establishing a mitigation bank consult a certified/licensed stream and wetland scientist or engineer. From its main office in Ashland, and its Chesapeake office, Resource International, Ltd is able to serve landowners throughout the Commonwealth.
If you have questions about wetland or stream mitigation banking, we would be please to speak with you. Please call (804) 550-9200 or visit us at http://www.resourceintl.com to learn more about Resource and mitigation banking.
John Brooks is a Senior Scientist/Ecologist and Vice President at Resource International, Ltd located in Ashland, Virginia. John is certified Professional Wetland Delineator and is certified in Rosgen Natural Stream Restoration Techniques through Wildland Hydrology. John has served on several wetland and water related technical advisory committees as a part of establishing or updating regulations, and served on the Attorney General’s Government and Regulatory Reform Task Force. John is well versed in wetland and stream related topics.
By: John H. Brooks III, PWD Copyright 2009 Resource International, Ltd. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2009 Resource International, Ltd. All rights reserved.