Wetlands protect and improve water quality, provide habitat for fish and wildlife, reduce damage caused by storm surges and flooding, and recharge underground sources of drinking water. Given the important role wetlands play in the environment, strict regulations are in place to ensure their protection. Any person or business proposing to impact existing wetlands must first make every attempt to avoid and minimize the impact. For the unavoidable impacts to wetlands, the replacement of any loss of wetland, stream, and/or aquatic resource is required through compensatory wetlands mitigation overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
What Is Compensatory Wetlands Mitigation?
Compensatory wetlands mitigation is the process of compensating for unavoidable impacts to wetland areas by the restoration and protection of another wetland area. Wetlands compensatory mitigation is part of a set of standards implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Corps of Engineers to promote "no net loss" of wetlands. These standards were revised on March 31, 2008, following recommendations of the National Research Council to improve wetland restoration and protection policies.
What Is a Wetland Mitigation Bank?
In wetlands compensatory mitigation, a wetland mitigation bank is a wetland site that has been restored and protected by formal agreement between the Corps of Engineers and the wetland mitigation bank sponsor. A wetland mitigation bank sponsor may be a government agency, non-profit organization, or corporation. The Corps of Engineers determines the amount of environmental credits a wetland mitigation bank can provide.
Those who intend to impact an existing wetland must be permitted to do so by the Corps of Engineers based on regulations put into place under of the Clean Water Act. In accordance with newly adapted standards to bolster wetland restoration and "no net loss" of wetlands, these permits often require the permit applicant to undertake wetlands compensatory mitigation for any unavoidable impacts to the existing wetland. One of the methods to satisfy this requirement is to purchase environmental credits from a wetland mitigation bank. The Corps of Engineers determines the amount of "credits" an applicant must obtain to receive their permit under this method. Other methods to satisfy this requirement are in-lieu fee mitigation and permitee-responsible mitigation.