The Congressional mandate specifies that there shall be “no net loss” of Waters of the U.S. Mitigation is the technique by which the regulatory agencies accomplish no net loss. It typically includes restoring streams or wetlands that are in a degraded condition. There are three methods by which an applicant can meet mitigation requirements:
Bank Credits – You may buy credits from an entity that has previously restored an area.
In-Lieu Fee – You may pay a fee to an entity that will conduct the restoration at a later date.
In either of these two cases you will no longer be liable for success of the mitigation, which is valuable. However, these options are extremely expensive and typically limited to small projects. These options may be further limited by the availability of a bank or ILF program within the service area of your impacts.
Compensatory Mitigation – The applicant is responsible for providing a suitable site, restoring streams or wetlands on that site, and then monitoring & maintaining the restored area for up to 10-years. This is the most common type of mitigation due to cost and practicality. However, the applicant is liable for success until the site is deemed successful and released by the agencies.
The key to successful mitigation is the physical, chemical & biological properties of the actual mitigation site. Only a skilled Restoration Ecologist can successfully translate the permit requirements to a specific site. Secondary to success is the restoration plan. A good restoration ecologist has a keen understanding of the mechanisms that drive natural systems. Technology & Geographic information is invaluable in this process, but there is no substitute for a professional.
The concept of mitigation is to provide an “ecological lift” to a degraded site. Most wetland projects consist of reversing drainage efforts such as field tiles and ditches on wet cropland. For wetlands, simpler is better; the more landshaping that a site requires the less likely it is to fully succeed. Streams are dynamic, and subject to failure from erosion or deposition. When practicable it is often better to build a new stream from scratch than to work within an existing channel.
From the initial design we focus on the successful release of your mitigation at the minimum cost. We work with the natural attributes to design a successful project with minimal input. We specialize in design-build restoration and our product is practical and cost efficient.
The mitigation plan that we produce for permits are CAD files that are true to the site. The file illustrates the existing topography and is overlain by the design topography. This drawing is used to calculate the amount of cut/fill material to be excavated. It is easily converted to a GPS file for layout or machine-controlled construction. We build most of the projects that we permit. For clients such as coal mines and construction companies they often do the bulk excavating and we finish the project. We can also provide construction oversight for clients who wish to complete the project themselves. After the project is established it moves into the Monitoring & Maintenance phase.