We were a bit shocked — and terribly pleased — to see two respected environmental advocacy groups call out North Carolina’s mitigation fee program. In the public comment letter below concerning the application of the NC Ecosystem Enhancement Program’s (NCEEP) to operate under the new federal mitigation regulations, the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation made it pretty clear they prefer wetland mitigation banks over fee programs.
RS has long maintained that Fee Programs weaken rather than strengthen wetland protection and mitigation — as well as present a significant barrier to private mitigation banking. It is a tremendous relief to see groups like the Southern Environmental Law and the Tar-Pam Foundation reach similar conclusions.
For the reasons outlined below, we recommend either abolishing the EEP in-lieu-fee mitigation program and moving more quickly toward a mitigation program utilizing mitigation banks as preferred by the federal rule or continuing the EEP program with DOT as the signatory and responsible entity under the instrument and the only entity that can utilize EEP to meet mitigation obligations. — Southern Environmental Law Center and Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, March 23, 2010