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An Oregon Wetland That Saved A Highway From Flooding

Last summer, highway officials in Oregon teamed up with a local landowner to use a nearby wetland as a natural sponge for floodwater. By removing a mile-long wall of dirt, they freed the river to spread out into its natural flood plain. Since then, even when the Necanicum has over-topped its banks, it hasn’t sent its waters to flood the highway. It’s a big change from how things used to be.
READ MORE AT:
http://ijpr.org/post/wetland-saved-highway-101-flooding?utm_referrer=http%3A//m.ijpr.org/%3Futm_referrer%3D%23mobile/10420

Overbank Flooding Event, Pancho Mitigation Bank

Overbank sedimentation during flood events represents an important component of stream restoration success. In addition to its importance for floodplain development, overbank deposition of fine sediment frequently results in a significant reduction of the suspended sediment load transported through a river system to the catchment outlet.

For details on Restoration Systems’ Pancho Wetland, Stream and Nutrient Mitigation Bank in the Neuse River Basin (now in Monitoring Year 2), go to
http://www.restorationsystems.com/projects/pancho-stream-wetland-nutrient-mitigation-bank/

Construction Industry Compliance Assistance Center (CICA)

Thumbs up to one construction industry compliance advocacy group for what it is saying about mitigation banking!
+ + + It is a regulatory preference that the wetlands are kept undisturbed. Where avoidance is not practical, wetland substitution, or replacement, at another site often provides a sound solution for the need to preserve wetland habitats. Until the mid-1990s the developer had just two options:
1. Mitigate the impacted wetlands on-site. The developer could replace the lost wetlands on the same site but at a potential loss of expensive real estate value.
2. Mitigate the impacted wetlands off-site by purchasing another piece of property and construct compensatory wetlands. This option is usually prohibitive considering cost and the time requirements because developer must locate and purchase the land, secure the necessary permits and convert the property it into an acceptable wetland.

A relatively new concept called mitigation banking offers a new alternative that simplifies the process for the development community. Preserves, called mitigation banks, are large areas of constructed, restored, or preserved wetlands set aside for the express purpose of providing compensatory mitigation for impacts to habitat. A bank is authorized to sell the habitat values created on the preserve. These values, known as credits, are sold to landowners who need to substitute wetlands for those lost to development where avoidance or on-site mitigation is not feasible.
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For more on CICA, go to http://www.cicacenter.org/mitigation.html

 

Hollywood in the Swamp

RS owns 330 acres we are permitting as Phase One of a mitigation bank in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, along the west bank of the Mississipi River below New Orleans.

The site is called Jesuit Bend because it lies on the last big easterly turn of the river below the city, but still 72 miles from the gulf.

The land is a dying beauty. A mix of open water and remnant swamp that is slowly but surely transitioning to ALL open water.

At this point, Jesuit Bend can only be reached by airboat, but it is worth the trip. The remnant swamp portion of the site, about 50 acres, is picture perfect.  The site is so attractive that we have allowed production companies access to film the landscape.

To date, two productions have been filmed; a promotion for an upcoming Coldwell Banker annual conference, and a segment of the reality show, “Sweet Home Alabama,” on Country Music Television.

Here is the Coldwell Banker promo:

Sweet Home Alabama is filmed and in the can, but we don’t have a trailer to show just yet. The premise of the show, for better or worse, is good looking country people and fabulous city people mixing it up and romancing at beautiful southern locations. The show will air February 27th on Country Music Television.

Tune in!

Bad Headline: Good News

Wetlands Bill May Penalize Raleigh

MANY RESTORATION PROJECTS FAILING
A News & Observer series, Washed Away, recently identified $140 million spent on restoration projects that are failing, long delayed or too far away to counter the effects of development.The roughly 80 projects identified by The N&O were largely built by the state. It has operated programs that allow developers and the N.C. Department of Transportation to pay fees based on how much damage their roads, shopping centers and subdivisions cause to streams and wetlands, and then the state becomes obligated to build restoration projects that counter those effects.

There is no such program in many other states. The restoration is provided by businesses known as mitigation bankers, who find degraded streams and wetlands, restore them and then sell part or all of those sites to developers and road builders so their projects can move forward.

Market’s good in North Carolina
North Carolina is a lucrative market for mitigation banks because it is a fast-growing state with more stream miles than any other, according to one study. Roughly a dozen mitigation bankers in the state not only compete with the state program, they sometimes serve as a supplier.

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RALEIGH There has been a growing mantra among state lawmakers, environmentalists and others to privatize the production of restored streams and wetlands to offset the impacts of development.

They believe that private businesses in a market environment would produce better projects at less cost.

But for Raleigh residents new legislation aimed at furthering that goal could lead to the city eating more than $1 million spent on sites it has purchased for environmental projects. The legislation also would force the city to deal with what is now a monopoly – one business providing the pollution-reducing projects in the Raleigh area.

“I don’t think the bill’s sponsors realize some of the unintended consequences,” said Kenneth Waldroup, Raleigh’s assistant public utilities director.

The bill’s chief sponsor, state Sen. Neal Hunt, a Raleigh Republican and former city council member, said he was unaware of the city’s concerns. The council recently voted to oppose the legislation.

The legislation is the latest development in a continuing battle between the public and private sectors over what is the best way to produce restoration that protects the environment while keeping development and road building from slowing to a standstill. The federal Clean Water Act requires the damages from development be offset by restoration projects that improve water quality.

Waldroup said he generally agrees with a market-based approach to restoration, but says the market isn’t in a position to work for Raleigh. There is only one mitigation bank providing stream and wetland restoration in the Neuse River sub-basin that includes the city.

It could be several years before a second enters the market, he said.

He also said it’s unfair to exclude municipalities from buying restoration from the state, while allowing the state and federal governments to have access to it. The state Ecosystem Enhancement Program provides the restoration for a fee based on the amount of damage a road or development would create.

The city began developing its own restoration three years ago when state lawmakers first made a run at excluding municipalities from buying restoration from the state. The city has purchased conservation easements on two properties at a cost of $1.1 million that it plans to use to offset water quality losses caused by the construction of a new reservoir. The conservation can be used to offset development damages.

But that reservoir on the Little River may not get built. If that happens, under Hunt’s bill Waldroup thinks the city would not have the option of selling the conservation to someone else.

One of the biggest mitigation bankers in the state is Restoration Systems, which is based in Raleigh. John Preyer, co-founder and chief operating officer, said he understood Waldroup’s concerns, but private businesses such as his will struggle to survive if they have to compete against government programs not as focused on the bottom line.

He also predicted mitigation banks will quickly move into underserved areas in a competitive field. His company is looking to produce stream and wetland restoration that would serve Raleigh and the surrounding area.

Three years ago, he said his company began producing nitrogen-reduction projects locally to offset development-related pollution. Within a year another competitor jumped into the market and a third soon followed.

Hunt said he wants to nurture mitigation banks by taking away some of the government competition. His bill does not stop the state from producing restoration for its needs.

He said the businesses would be more accountable and efficient. If a project went bad, they would have to fix it on their own dime.

“They would be responsible and they’d have to go back and do it themselves,” he said.

That hasn’t been the case with many stream restorations done by the state that needed repairs. In a three-part series, “Washed Away,” The News & Observer found more than 30, and in many cases issues were raised about the design or construction. But the state had only docked two contractors for construction problems.

State records suggest those who produce mitigation and then sell it to the state have a better track record. They have fewer erosion problems with stream restorations and performed slightly better than the state in a recent environmental audit of stream and wetland projects.

But that picture is dimmed by the fact that the state did not require private providers to report such repairs until two years ago.

Another question is the scientific research that questions whether stream restoration improves water quality. State legislative leaders say they are concerned about spending money on restoration without proof goals are being met.

Legislative leaders say Hunt’s legislation is likely to become the vehicle to respond to concerns about the quality of stream and wetland projects. Hunt said he will listen to the city’s concerns, and expects his bill will likely be reworked before it is heard in a legislative committee.

dan.kane@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4861

Flat Out Wonderful: RS teams with Houston's Katy Prairie Conservancy to sponsor the nation's largest stream mitigation bank

Restoration Systems is excited to share the news of our latest (and greatest) proposal for a mitigation bank outside of North Carolina.  RS, the Katy Prairie Conservancy of Houston, and the Warren family have entered a long-term Joint Venture to develop the nation’s largest stream mitigation bank on the 6000 acre Warren Ranch in northwestern Harris County.

The historic Warren Ranch is the largest working cattle ranch in Harris County and one of the last remaining spreads of its character and size on the perimeter of Houston.  As proposed, the bank will service the compensatory mitigation needs of nearly six million people as the city sprawls westward.   All told, the project will restore, enhance and preserve streams and wetlands over 20 miles of the ranch.

The Katy Prairie Conservancy, one of Texas’ oldest and most respected Land Trusts, plans to dedicate their share of  project proceeds to help retire the debt on the Warren Ranch and restore and permanently protect it to native prairie grassland.  The prairie ecosystem west of Houston has suffered severe degradation in the past. Today it faces obliteration by the relentless march of the city to the west.

RS is very fortunate to have found our farsighted partners, the KPC, its Executive Director Mary Anne Piacentini, and the Warren family.   We look forward to filing you in on the details of the project and updating you as it progresses.   For now, please enjoy the videos below of the Flat Out Wonderful Warren Ranch.

VIDEO: Bear Creek Wetland Mitigation Bank Year 7 Reconnaissance Hike

I put together a little video from last year’s hike of Restoration Systems’ Bear Creek Mitigation Bank. John Preyer, George Howard (yt) and Adam Riggsbee of RS are hiking the site with Wes Newell and Adam McIntyre from our consultant and contractor, Backwater Environmental. Bear Creek was restored in 2001 by backfilling large drainage canals and removing artificial agricultural levees that impeded natural floods. As the water returned that winter, RS planted nearly 80,000 trees of 20 native wetland species. Since then, several hundred acres of old growth wetland preservation have been added at locations in Lenoir and Craven County. All told, the bank, and the adjacent Sleepy Creek Mitigation Site, encompasses over 1000 acres at six locations of both restored and natural bottomland hardwoods along the Neuse River. Keep in mind: All the property you see was a bone dry fertilized corn field less than a decade ago.