Dr. David Robinson: Father of Full-Delivery Mitigation

We just returned from the National Mitigation Banking Conference last week in Sacramento, where old friend David Robinson gave an excellent presentation on the benefits of “Full-Delivery” mitigation procurement systems. You can also view it here on his website:

By way of background, as some readers will know, the NC Ecosystem Enhancement program is North Carolina’s unique, state-wide, non-regulatory, Fee Program. The NCEEP sells hundreds of millions of dollars of mitigation to the public and the government at government established rates. The NCEEP is the funnel through which the vast majority of mitigation in North Carolina flows.

The program develops the mitigation sold to the public in two ways.  ”In-House,” where the state identifies the land and purchases it themselves, then contracts with separate firms to design, construct, and care for the site, with no firm responsible for the entire project, and various state employees responsible for various parts.

Or, the NCEEP accomplishs the mitigation by conducting a bonded, public, low-bid system called “Full-Delivery.” In the Full-Delivery system, companies like Restoration Systems will identify and contract for the purchase of the land privately; and, if awarded, acquire, design, construct, and care for the site long term — with all resulting credits accruing to the state.

Back to Dr. Robinson. David was instrumental in the development of Full-Delivery mitigation as the preferred alternative for large state purchases of compensatory mitigation in North Carolina. He mid-wifed the birth of the innovative procurement system at the Department of Transportation in the 1990’s and has seen it adopted by other agencies, and other states, lately including South Carolina.

Robinson makes the case here that large government purchases of environmental mitigation should utilize a competitive “Full-Delivery” procurement model that lowers costs, reduces risk for the buyer and stimulates green jobs for the economy.

Take it away Dr. D….

Robinson on Full-Delivery mitigation for wetlands, streams and other natural assets

Data: National mitigation market estimated…..minus Tar Heel state

The Georgia team of Trey Evans and Matt Peevy at Mitigation Management in Atlanta have done a bang-up job here compiling data from the Regional Internet Bank Tracking System (RIBITS) which I have posted on Scribd below. RIBITS was introduced a few years ago by the Corps of Engineers and is a (nearly) universal tool for Corps Districts to service their customers by providing up-to-date information on the availability and location of mitigation banks, along with monitoring data and permitting documents.

What a great tool.

But unlike our Peach State buddies, Tar Heels or anyone else interested in mitigation in North Carolina cannot use RIBITS to analyze and plan mitigation bank sites, or credit purchases therefrom. Unlike nearly every other District in the nation, the Wilmington District comes up completely blank for RIBITS data: Nothing. Nada. Goose. Egg.

The Wilmington District chose long ago to put all their policy eggs in one basket, trusting the NC state fee program to accomplish all the mitigation properly and in a timely manner. But in our mind this should not relieve the District of the “good government” obligation to join the dozens of other Districts who have seen fit to include themselves in the RIBITS database.

A nationwide or even regional data set is only as good as its weakest link. With Wilmington not participating in this innovative program, it becomes impossible to make nationwide market conclusions with accuracy, and leaves North Carolina a hole in the data doughnut.

What a shame.

Mitigation Management National Market Estimates 4th Quarter 2010

Vindication: NCDENR study confirms privately contracted mitigation superior to government "in-house" projects

I haven’t had time to pick through this carefully, but it appears to be a win for private “Full Delivery” mitigation and mitigation banks — not to mention a damn fine academic effort. I will be back soon with more detailed commentary.

Compensatory Stream and Wetland Mitigation in NC Evaluation of Regulatory Sucess

Video: Bear Creek Mitigation Bank under construction in October, 2001.

Here is some old video I took when Bear Creek was first being restored from farm to wetland forest in 2001. I need to take a similar video today, but recent still photos of the site can be seen in the post a few days ago.

Hint: Turn down your volume.

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.

New Photos of RS' Bear Creek Wetland Mitigation Bank — Year 8 Since Restoration

I enjoyed great weather today for a flight to take some pics of RS’ Bear Creek Wetland Mitigation Bank straddling US 70 between Goldsboro and Kinston, NC. My family and I are staying with friends further east in Morehead City, and the nearby Beaufort, NC, airport is a convenient place to get up for some photos. Unfortunately, we had less than two hours for the flight and I was unable to photograph any other RS sites in the region.

But Bear Creek is special and can justify its own trip. It is the first project Restoration Systems put in the ground, in 2001. The wet and sloppy areas you see in these photos were bone-dry cornfields before we purchased, restored and protected the wetlands eight years ago. We planted twenty native species and 200,000 trees, as well as removed agricultural levees and backfilled major canals and drainage ditches. The Bear Creek bank and its associated site, Sleepy Creek, required the assemblage of over 1000 acres of property from more than twenty land owners at three locations in Lenoir and Craven Counties.

I look forward to putting up some “before and after” photos of Bear Creek. We have been taking photos of the mitigation bank since 1998 and can show in vivid detail the miracle of environmental restoration.

Feel free to click on a pic to be taken to Google Albums. From there you can play them full screen or download them!

Update: I put some photos of a ground reconnaissance hike we took at Bear Creek a little over a year ago:

View Larger Map

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.