RESTORING THE WATERSHED WITH MITIGATION BANKING
The goal of a mitigation bank is to provide a economically efficient and flexible mechanism to offset the loss of wetlands or streams which cannot be avoided during construction or development by preservation, enhancement and/or restoration of other important areas within the watershed.
A mitigation bank for the Gills Creek Watershed would:
- Provide for the advance replacement of the chemical, physical, and biological functions of wetland resources which are lost as a result of authorized aquatic impacts within the Gills Creek Watershed.
- Provide mitigation credits for use or purchase where development will impact wetlands and other aquatic resources, in accordance with the Clean Water Act.
- Identify suitable site(s) with a positive benefit/cost ratio.
- Utilize the Interagency Review Team (IRT), which has already been established, to provide regulatory review, approval, and oversight.
Every individual, developer, government agency, utility or any other entity who causes destruction or adverse impact to jurisdictional wetlands or streams is required, under federal law, to submit an application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit and must submit a plan of “compensatory mitigation” designed to protect, enhance or restore other natural wetlands and streams to “compensate” for loss.
Prior to July 2008, a developer might submit as their compensatory mitigation plan (for unavoidable wetland or stream impact caused by their land disturbance) the creation of wetlands somewhere on the site (in other words, man-made wetlands). As of July 2008, the new national mitigation rules require the applicant to purchase credits from a mitigation bank permitted by the Corps of Engineers if there is one within the primary service area of the impact.
This new rule is very beneficial as it relates to adequate and appropriate mitigation, because mitigation banks are designed and permitted to protect, enhance and restore natural wetlands and streams.
According to the Clean Water Act, when planning a project a property owner or developer must make every effort to avoid or minimize impacts to wetlands. If impacts to wetlands cannot be completely avoided, then mitigation requirements must be considered. This also goes for streams, lakes, rivers, and watersheds.
For information on watershed mitigation banking see the following web sites:
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Mitigation Banking Factsheet
United States Corps of Engineers Charleston District's Regulatory Division, Mitigation Information
. This site contains exhaustive information including the Complete Mitigation Rule, a Mitigation Plan Summary, a Compensatory Mitigation Plan Template, a Watershed Approach document, and other documents.
United States Corps of Engineers Current Mitigation Banks in South Carolina