Thu, Apr 22, 2010 05:36 AM
In Fight Over Dam Sides Ask: What’s Natural?
RALEIGH For more than a century, Milburnie Dam has stood 16 feet high in the middle of Raleigh, a stone wall that interrupts the Neuse River like an aquatic comma. Above it, motorboats troll through deep water; below, fishermen wade around a pounding waterfall.
Now a Raleigh firm that does environmental work wants to tear out the privately owned dam and let the Neuse flow freely, removing the only man-made obstacle between Falls Lake and Pamlico Sound. Doing so, they say, would bring shad and other fish further upriver and improve the water quality by speeding up a slowed-down Neuse.
I dropped by RS’ Lowell Park today in Kenly, NC, Johnston County. Lowell Park is the site of the former Lowell Dam that RS shot to dust in 2005 for the NCEEP. We purchased an additional 17 acres at the site so that we would leave behind something for the community after the removing the dangerous and defunct structure.
The interpretive signs could use a little paint, but otherwise the site is in ship-shape. We pay an elderly gentleman to maintain the site and he does an excellent job. There was hardly a cigarette butt to be seen and the grass was mowed as neat as a pin.
Scroll over and click to see full screen:
Quite a find on my porch this morning. The state’s paper of record revealed a long-stewing controversy in the obscure but important world of compensatory environmental mitigation policy. [EBX paid twice for wetlands work, December 8, 2009] RS’ principal competitor, Environmental Bank and Exchange (EBX), sold nutrient mitigation credits to the North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program subsequent to the site being banked, restored and previously paid for by the North Carolina Department of Transportation for wetland mitigation credit. In industry parlance — we call this a “double-dip.”
The updated guidance for mitigation banking in the Savannah Army Corps District has at long last arrived. As regular readers will know, in summer 2008 the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency promulgated an extensive regulation to reform and improve compensatory mitigation and mitigation banking for the 404 Federal wetland regulatory program. Presumably, each Army Corps District will at some point issue a document similar to this one in order to conform local practice and previously issued guidance to the new federal regulatory standards.
I have only skimmed the guidance document but (as expected) it appears to be excellent work. The Savannah District and the Georgia IRT (Interagency Review Team) already administer a relatively well-functioning and responsive mitigation banking regulatory system. It is no surprise to see them lead the nation in updating their regs in a comprehensive and thoughtful manner. Don’t get me wrong: I am sure there are bugs in it. But this document is a draft — and “Stories from the Field” will let you know in future posts what we think does or doesn’t work.
Another tip of the hat goes to the newly formed Georgia Environmental Restoration Association (GERA). Modeled to some degree after North Carolina’s NCERA, the GERA was formed last year and has quickly mobilized to improve compensatory mitigation banking in GA. GERA is a “must-join” for working down there.
Proposed Savannah Corps regs here
The indispensible Ecosystem Marketplace published a second story in a week involving RS. (Here is the first). This one is a lot drier, but also filled with consequence for and insight into the emerging markets for compensatory mitigation and ecosystem services (a term for another blog).
When I get a chance, I will blog some about the background of the survey, it’s conclusions, and the propects for its continuation. But, for now, I just wanted to share the link below, and recognize Ecosystem Marketplace for their coverage of these important issues as they develop.
Mitigation Bankers Say New Rule Heightens Old Conflicts: Survey
About the Survey
This article has been adapted from the Executive Summary of A National Survey of Federal Mitigation Regulations and their Impacts on Wetland and Stream Banking. You can download the full report, including the executive summary, above.
20 November 2009 | When the US Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers released their long-awaited regulations for offsetting lost wetlands in March of last year, everyone seemed to agree that “the Rule” – as the regulations are collectively and colloquially known – would encourage the expansion of mitigation banking to provide compensatory mitigation for unavoidable impacts to the nation’s
This should be interesting:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the N.C. Ecosystem Enhancement Program invite your participation in a Webinar on Dec. 16, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. The purpose of the Webinar is to provide the latest status of EEP’s conversion to the new federal mitigation rule, including the review of specific provisions of the draft instrument.
If you wish to participate in the Webinar, you must register your interest with EEP by Dec. 7. Participants will be sent information on how to access the meeting via the Internet and telephone. To sign up, please send an email to Eric Ellis of EEP (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Dec. 7, and please feel free to share this announcement with others that you think would be interested.
Director of Communications
N.C. Ecosystem Enhancement Program
I drove down to the Lowell Dam, uh, former Lowell Dam, to see how the restoration of the river and dam site were progressing.
Here is a panorama photo of the dam in the summer of 2004:
And here is site of the former dam today from left to right…
I apoligize for the changes in perspective (and we are working on the ability to enlarge photos) but I think you can get the picture. It looks pretty good. The river is restoring.
Here are some more photos. Remember, the dam was 11 feet high and upstream was an 11 foot deep lake — for two centuries.