Wetland mitigation may be required as part of a US Army Corp of Engineers Section 404 permit or as part of a state environmental permit. Compensatory mitigation is a type of environmental offset where unavoidable impacts to a wetland, stream or other aquatic resource affected by a built project are offset by restoring, enhancing, rehabilitating, creating or preserving a wetland, stream or aquatic resource in another location on the same site, or at a different site.
In brief: a wetland impact or loss of wetland habitat or wetland function is offset by a wetland restoration project performed according to an approved mitigation plan.
Categories of Compensatory Mitigation
Mitigation can generally be divided into several categories:
- Onsite Permittee Responsible Mitigation (PRM), where the entity receiving authorization to impact wetlands (the permittee) is directly responsible for performing the mitigation and generating the environmental offsets for the impacts. This type is performed on the same site as the impacts requiring compensation / offset.
- Offsite PRM, where the permittee is directly responsible for performing the wetland mitigation project at a separate mitigation site.
- Commercial Wetland Mitigation Banking, where the entity receiving authorization for wetland impact compensates a 3rd party (the mitigation banker) to provide offsets. The banker typically generates these offsets at a relatively large site that is capable of generating offsets for a number of individual projects. Then the offsets are sold as mitigation credits to individual permittees.
- Single-Client Wetland Mitigation Banking, where the mitigation banker produces credits for its own use and not for sale. This is different from PRM in that there may be multiple projects using credits from the bank over a period of time.
- In-Lieu fee Programs, where an organization is authorized to take fees in lieu of acre-for-acre mitigation credit swaps.
In addition to the 1972 Clean Water Act, 1977’s Executive Order 11990 and the 1990 “No Net Loss” policy set the stage for wetlands mitigation, requiring Federal agencies to minimize losses of wetlands and then to offset the losses from a permitted wetland impact. This resulted in many individual mitigation sites permitted as PRM and subject to varying levels of performance monitoring and compliance. Uneven results in terms of wetland acres restored, habitat quality, and measurement of technical factors such as hydrology, ecological benefit, wildlife habitat, hydric soils, and plant community led to a push for standardization.
Mitigation Banking Rule
The 2008 Final Compensatory Mitigation Rule sets most of the guidelines for current wetland mitigation practice. In summary, mitigation banking is the preferred method, and PRM projects must meet the same general standards of management and reporting as banks.
Cypress has extensive experience with wetland mitigation in banks and PRM. Our staff have worked within the regulatory system as well as private consulting providing our clients with our unique perspective on the process. Cypress completed restoration and obtained 100% credit release for the first three banks in USACE Mobile District. We have completed analysis of wetland, stream and species banks across many USACE Districts from Portland to Galveston and New Orleans to Savannah. As of November 2021, we have over 85 completed mitigation bank projects and contracts in the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic and Pacific regions of the United States.
Texas Flat Mitigation Bank (Mobile District): 1985-acre wetland and stream mitigation bank. Cypress completed all environmental surveys, permitting, design, and construction management.
Little Biloxi River Mitigation Bank (Mobile District): 180-acre wetland and stream mitigation bank. Cypress completed all environmental surveys, permitting, design, and construction.
Turtleskin Creek Mitigation Bank (Vicksburg District): 2740-acre wetland and stream mitigation bank. Cypress completed prospectus development, permitting, and conceptual design for stream and wetland restoration.
Private Client (Savannah District): Stream mitigation bank. Cypress completed technical and financial analysis of the bank for a prospective buyer, generating a corrected set of pro-forma financials and evaluated feasibility of project performance and schedule.