U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) permit applicants with projects that have wetland impacts can purchase mitigation credits from the Pineywoods Mitigation Bank, thereby transferring their projects’ mitigation obligations to the bank. The developer who purchases mitigation bank credits benefits by:
- Reducing the time needed to review and process your USACE permit application.
- Consolidating the mitigation for multiple small wetland impacts into one large site with greater ecological value.
- Eliminating design, construction, monitoring, and maintenance responsibilities.
- Eliminating the need to dedicate or acquire land and water for mitigation purposes.
- Eliminating all risk and liability associated with mitigation sites:
Successful wetland mitigation projects require experienced environmental professionals, from design through USACE approval, and usually at a substantial cost. The development of a mitigation plan is typically contracted through environmental consulting firms and wetland biologists. Additionally, construction usually requires contractors who are experienced in environmental restoration methods.
Furthermore, the USACE has experienced a disappointingly high failure rate of individual mitigation sites to meet success criteria. More than half the constructed individual mitigation sites fail to meet success criteria.
By specifying your intent to mitigate your wetland impacts at a mitigation bank, the time needed to obtain approval of your permit application can be significantly shortened. There will be no need to develop a mitigation plan, or to negotiate with the USACE the details of your mitigation plan. Regulators usually require that you commence mitigation activities concurrently with your construction schedule. When you use mitigation credits to satisfy your mitigation requirements, the mitigation is already in place. Time will be saved during regulatory review of the proposed mitigation plan, in the establishment of your mitigation, and project construction can be initiated sooner.
Mitigation banking provides developers, utility providers, and state and local governments with the opportunity to pay a one-time fee to purchase credits from the bank, thereby satisfying all or a portion of the statutory wetland mitigation requirements.
Costs associated with creating a wetland mitigation site (not including the costs of land, water, monitoring and maintenance) average about $50,000 per acre. Land at a development site is usually very costly, and utilizing the land to the greatest extent possible can optimize the return on the site. Use of a mitigation bank provides a fixed, known cost that can be used to develop an accurate assessment of a project’s bottom-line. Purchasing wetland mitigation credits from a bank is most often the cost-effective alternative.
Monitoring and maintenance of a mitigation project, usually required by the permit for a minimum of three to five years, also requires professional expertise and can add substantial cost and uncertainty. If the regulatory agencies find that a developer’s mitigation project fails to meet success criteria, the developer may be required to correct any deficiencies, regardless of cost and time involved, and/or be responsible for penalties. Immediately upon purchase of credits from a mitigation bank, the entire responsibility and liability associated with mitigation performance becomes the responsibility of the mitigation bank sponsor.
Benefits provided to the environment by mitigation banks include:
- Higher-quality compensation for unavoidable impacts to wetlands,
- Offset to diminishing quantity of wetlands in rapidly urbanizing areas,
- Increasing habitat diversity for plant and animal species,
- Enhancing the site in advance of project development and wetland impacts, and
- Improving water quality and enhancing hydrologic function.
A significant concern of the regulators, even in cases where impacted wetlands will ultimately be restored or replaced, is the temporal loss of wetland functions. In most cases, even when mitigation efforts are commenced at the earliest stage of project construction, there is some temporal loss. In cases were the mitigation will take the form of restoration at the completion of project construction, the temporal loss may be several months, or even years. When the mitigation is accomplished through the purchase of wetland mitigation credits from a bank, the mitigation is in place before the project commences and temporal loss is completely eliminated.