Compensatory mitigation is the restoration, establishment, enhancement, or preservation of aquatic resources for the purpose of off-setting losses of aquatic resources resulting from activities authorized by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' permits. Mitigation and conservation banking can play significant roles in regulatory programs administered by the Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Banking programs reduce uncertainty and delays for all parties involved and improve the success of compensatory mitigation and conservation efforts.
Project proponents in need of "mitigation" to offset unavoidable authorized impacts to regulated resources like wetlands, streams, or federally-listed species, may have the option of purchasing credits from an approved mitigation or conservation bank rather than restoring, creating, or preserving these resources on or near the development site. When authorized impacts are located within the service area of an approved mitigation or conservation bank and the bank has the appropriate number and resource type of credits available, the permittee's compensatory mitigation/conservation requirements may be met by acquiring those credits from the bank sponsor.
Both mitigation and conservation banks require establishment of a formal agreement between one or more regulatory agencies (e.g., Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and the bank sponsor. The bank sponsor can be a government agency, a corporation, a private landowner, a nonprofit organization or a tribe that will undertake responsibility for the restoration, creation, or conservation activities associated with the bank. The value of a bank's resources is measured in credits, which are units of measure representing the attainment of aquatic resource function or services or species/habitat conservation at the bank site.
Benefits of Mitigation
- Successful mitigation can be ensured since the aquatic resource can be functional in advance of project impacts.
- Banking eliminates the temporal losses of aquatic resource functions that typically occur when mitigation is initiated during or after the development impacts occur.
- Consolidation of numerous small, isolated or fragmented mitigation projects into a single large parcel may have greater ecological benefit.
- A mitigation bank can bring scientific and planning expertise and financial resources together, thereby increasing the likelihood of success in a way not practical for individual mitigation efforts.