Established by the Clean Water Act of 1972, wetland mitigation banking was created to protect our nation’s wetland resources and maintain the program’s goal of “no net loss” of wetlands. The regulations provide an economic incentive for restoring, creating, enhancing and/or preserving wetlands for the purposes of “offsetting unavoidable adverse impacts.”
What are Wetland Mitigation Credits?
Wetland mitigation credits are compensatory credits that developers purchase when wetland loss cannot be avoided. Developers may impact wetlands through a number of different projects, including roads and bridges, residential communities, retail stores, utility lines, and gas pipelines. When a developer’s project plan includes impacts that result in a loss of aquatic resources, the US Army Corps of Engineers requires the developer to prove that these impacts cannot be completely avoided or at least minimized. If the developer proves that impacts have been avoided and minimized as much as possible, then the Corps quantifies the remaining impact, and makes a decision about what course of action results in the lowest overall environmental loss. Often, the course of action requires the developer to purchase wetland mitigation credits from a wetland mitigation bank or seek project specific mitigation within the same or adjacent watershed. In order to receive approval from the Corps, wetland mitigation banks must provide long-term protection of the property; thus, ensuring its viability for future generations.