York County Council hopes to have a mitigation bank plan up and running this year. Mitigation Banking allows builders to purchase credits to offset an environmental impact to a stream or wetland. Credits are generated by restoring a stream or wetland onsite or within the same watershed. York County had success with this in the past and is looking forward to having more with the current growth in development.
Restoration Systems is a proud supporter of the 17th annual Mitigation Banking Conference. Restoration Systems pushed hard to have the conference held in Raleigh, but the event this year will head west to Denver, Colorado. We hope that Raleigh will be able to host the conference one day, but are happy to go to Colorado as we just started doing business in the Denver area.
To Register and see the full agenda visit www.mitigationbankingconference.com
Check out Restoration Systems new informational video concerning the Milburnie Dam removal, please share it — and consider signing our petition!
“That conservation mindset further blossomed after a chance meeting with Brents Fults in a Farmville log yard 10 years ago.
Fults, a landscape architect, long had wanted to develop private enterprise solutions to fix larger environmental problems.
He found a ready partner with John Harrison. By 2005, they had established the state’s first stream bank on Harrison’s Wildwood Farm, which cleaned up streams for credits that then are sold to developers. The nutrient offset bank came next. It’s a more complicated concept with greater potential to meet the family’s goal of generating money to keep the farm.”
I was googling our Virigina water quality partner Brent Fults (never can tell what he is up to) and found this wonderful article I had never seen about his company and the Chesapeake Bay Nutirient Land Trust’s first water quality bank, Wildwood Farms, with the Harrison family of Appamotto County, Virginia.
The story is an accurate tribute to the profound promise of agriculture working with mitigation bankers. Readers of our blog are well aware now of the long history of farmers and bankers doing well by doing good with stream restoration.
In commercial stream mitigation projects, the farmer takes a relatively non-productive creek and riparian property and converts it, with an investment from the banker, to stream mitigation credits for sale to the regulated public. RS and Brent’s firm have done just this with dozens of our farming partners
What Brent and his team accomplished at Wildwood, however, is even more promising for the long-term economic prospects of mitigation banking and to a smaller degree (as it is a much larger industry) agriculture.
EarthSource Solutions expanded their project at the Harrison Farm and successfully permitted the the very first mitigation bank for water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. That’s a big deal — and getting bigger. Water Quality Banks are the next and much much larger wave of mitigation banking. As we have proven here in North Carolina (with the first such banks in the country) these new approaches lead to a virtuous cycle of payments from water polluters to water improvers (read agriculture).
And to think, all that from a chance meeting at a Farmville VA log yard!!
From the News and Advance of Lynchburg / Virginia Appomattox County Farm Does its part to keep Bay Clean
Five years ago, cloudy water flowed in a tiny Appomattox County stream. A brown fuzz of algae and silt lined the bottom.
The stream, which drains a small section of a 900-acre farm, looked like most rural creeks in Central Virginia that bear scars from agricultural and livestock runoff.
Today, about 110 acres of that farm have been converted from nutrient-polluting cattle land to water-cleansing forest and hay field.
Now the creek flows clear, with bottom rocks clean, as it meets a larger, still murky stream on its way to the James River.
That clear water is the result of years of transformation on John and Phillip Harrison’s land. The effort has placed the farm at the forefront of statewide legislation to improve water quality.
The land is the first in Virginia to help clean our streams, creeks and rivers through a pioneering combination of private business enterprise and two generations of land stewardship. [Full story here]
Army Corps of Engineers presents plans for West Bank wetlands projects
Published: Wednesday, August 01, 2012, 10:15 PM
The Army Corps of Engineers Tuesday night unveiled a variety of wetland-restoration projects that will serve as mitigation for the environmental impact caused by building leveesalong the West Bank in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The projects would restore more than 885 acres of wetlands on the water side of the levee system, including filling in several abandoned oilfield canals in Jean Lafitte National Wildlife refuge, restoration of 85 acres of wetlands in Yankee Pond along Bayou Segnette, and restoration of 643 acres of bottomland hardwood wetlands and swamp at Lake Boeuf, near Raceland in Lafourche Parish. The mitigation plan also will eventually include restoration of wetlands in privately owned “mitigation banks,” which will compensate for habitat damage on the protected side of levees.
Corps officials did not provide a price tag for the West Bank projects during Tuesday’s meeting at the Westwego Ernest J. Tassin Senior Center.
However, at a January meeting in Vicksburg, Miss., New Orleans corps planners estimated spending about $252 million on restoration projects resulting from construction of the 160-mile levee system, including $79 million on east bank projects and $173 million on the West Bank.
The projects in the corps’ tentatively selected plan were chosen from more than 400 possible mitigation sites, many suggested by community members.
The projects will compensate for damage to natural areas caused by building the West Closure Complex, Mississippi River Co-located levees, Eastern Tie-In, Harvey to Westwego Levee, Lake Cataouatche Levee, Bayou Segnette Floodgate Complex, the Western Tie-In, and government-furnished borrow sites in Plaquemines, Jefferson and St. Charles parishes.
Corps officials discussed the restoration program in general terms before attempting to break Tuesday night’s audience of about 50 people into smaller groups to discuss individual projects.
Another idea in Jesuit Bend
But the owner of a large tract at Jesuit Bend in Plaquemines Parish objected, saying the format deprived the audience of hearing about his alternative to the corps plan.
George Howard is president of Restoration Systems LLC, a North Carolina company that operates mitigation banks and develops property as mitigation for private owners and government agencies nationwide. He said the company has developed 25,000 acres in nine states as mitigation projects.
Howard’s proposal would redevelop open water areas of his property as wetlands, which he said could be done more cheaply than the corps and would help protect Plaquemines communities from hurricane storm surges. He said it’s not necessary to treat his property as a mitigation bank.
Elizabeth Behrens, corps environmental manager for the levee mitigation plan, said the agency has chosen projects it believes best match damage done in the levee construction. Many of the smaller projects will be in or adjacent to the Barataria Unit of the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park because of damage done to park lands.
Those projects avoid the cost of buying land that’s already part of the park, or will result in purchased land being added to the park, she said.
Other projects were selected as a response to damage to the environmentally sensitive Bayou aux Carpes wetland area, which is protected by a provision of the federal Clean Water Act, that occurred during construction of the West Closure Complex at the junction of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and the Harvey Canal.
She said Howard’s property is still eligible for participation in the mitigation bank portion of the restoration program, whose projects won’t be chosen until later this year.
‘Geocrib’ project under way
The Lake Boeuf project, chosen to mitigate for general impacts to bottomland hardwood forests and swamps, was picked as the best environmental project of its size in the area, she said. The land bought for that project will eventually be turned over to the state’s nearby Lake Boeuf Wildlife Management area, and thus available for public use, Behrens said.
Another 50-acre project, already well under way, is at the “Geocrib” area separating the eastern edge of Lake Salvador from the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Jefferson Parish.
The individual projects will be aimed at rebuilding wet or dry patches of bottomland hardwood forests containing cypress and tupelo trees, freshwater marshes, or swamps, based on the damage to each type of habitat by the levee projects.
The mitigation bank projects will involve the corps buying “credits” from an authorized bank located within the West Bank levee area. The corps will issue a request for proposals to buy credits from the banks equivalent to the acreage it determines is needed to be rebuilt.
Comments on the mitigation proposals can be made by calling the corps’ construction impacts hotline, 1.877.427.0345; on the web at www.nolaenvironmental.gov, or by email to[email protected].
For more information about the projects, contact Patricia Leroux, Project Management; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers;
Environmental Planning and Compliance Branch; P.O. Box 60267;
New Orleans, LA 70160-0267; or by phone at 862.1544; or by e-mail at [email protected].
Mark Schleifstein can be reached at [email protected] or 504.826.3327.
© 2012 NOLA.com. All rights reserved.
I will add some commentary later but I wanted to quickly share the wonderful study by Dave Urban and Craig Denisoff in this month’s highly regarded National Wetlands Newsletter.
Fortunately, the study speaks for itself. Take it away Dave and Craig:
So what’s the snag—and how serious is it? Communities where fracking has taken place, notably in Ohio and Pennsylvania, protest the noise and scarring of the landscape during the initial explorations. Restoration and compensation can ameliorate those concerns. — Mort Zuckerman
How America Can Escape the Energy Trap
Soaring natural gas production has already cut the share of oil consumption met by imports to 47% last year from 60% in 2005.
Can America escape the energy trap? Must our lives and security be forever held hostage to the vagaries of political power in the Middle East oil states? The answers to these questions are yes, and no. Thanks to American technology and enterprise, we can achieve a degree of energy security that once seemed hopeless—but only if we can sort out our priorities.
The good news is that the United States is at the center of a global energy revolution. Our development of innovative shale-gas technology offers the prospect of a huge bonanza of natural gas (and some oil as well). It’s the most positive event in the country’s energy outlook in 50 years. Let’s celebrate the achievement before looking at what needs to be done to bring it to fruition.
Our geologists have long been aware that gas (and oil) lies hidden in the country’s shale beds and under the ocean, but we had no chance to extract it until American entrepreneurial energy inspired companies to gamble on new technologies.
In a phrase, technology has trumped geology. Advances in computer-processing power yielded seismic mapping and three-dimensional imaging, enabling geologists to “see” through the thick layers of rock and salt obscuring the reservoirs thousands of feet below the surface. And new drilling technologies allow us to penetrate thousands of feet of rock, turn a corner, and continue drilling horizontally for several thousand more feet to reach millions of cubic feet of gas.
Associated Press/The Shreveport Times,A shale gas well in Shreveport, La.
It’s trapped in the shale, but it can be released by the process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are blasted in at high pressure. Fissures open up, and gas and oil seeps out.
The process of finding and producing hydrocarbons from this shale has taken off with such velocity that it has already significantly altered government and corporate energy expectations. The production costs of shale gas are about one-half to one-third the costs associated with new conventional gas wells in North America. The result is a glut of new supply and plummeting prices.
This kind of seismic shift in the energy landscape is rare. It could bring us back to the time when the U.S. and its neighbors in the hemisphere were self-sufficient and even a major world source of energy. Energy companies have become exporters, as the U.S. has surpassed Russia as the world’s leading gas producer.
So what’s the snag—and how serious is it? Communities where fracking has taken place, notably in Ohio and Pennsylvania, protest the noise and scarring of the landscape during the initial explorations. Restoration and compensation can ameliorate those concerns.
The most significant fear is that wastewater from the fracking process, called “flowback,” will contaminate the aquifers and hence drinking water. State regulators in Alaska, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming have stated that there have been no verified or documented cases of groundwater contamination as a result of hydraulic fracking.
The process uses about 99% water and sand, the rest being a solution of chemical additives including biocides, surfactants and emulsifiers. While no cases exist in which the fracking process itself has caused drilling liquids to contaminate drinking water, the issue is whether the flowback hazard can remain at acceptable levels.
The risk comes from wells that are not designed properly. Failures in cementing the steel casing at the uppermost portion of a well can send gas bubbling from fracks into nearby water wells. This has occurred on occasion, so fracking liquids can end up in aquifers. The Environmental Protection Agency has now made the commitment that it will develop standards for disposing of flowback based on “economically achievable technology.”
John Deutch, the prominent MIT chemistry professor and a former official at the Department of Energy under President Carter, headed an Energy Department advisory committee to evaluate these issues. In August, the committee recommended that the industry establish a national technical organization to encourage, develop and diffuse best engineering practices such as sealing off the well shafts—a technique that offshore oil and gas operators have used for years.
It also recommended that a government panel be established to measure the environmental impact of fracking and disclose what is found, using the data to improve field operations, minimize environmental impact, and incentivize the industry to adopt best practices. The industry recognizes tight control and monitoring of flowback is crucial to its future.
That the record is good so far doesn’t mean it will remain so. (Remember Deepwater Horizon.) Still, all forms of energy have their environmental drawbacks, including the favorites of environmentalists. Windmills kill birds and spoil landscapes, solar paves deserts, biofuel devastates the rainforest and raises food prices, and hydro interrupts fish migration. But a few companies like Renew Energy manufacture solar equipment keeping in mind even the vestiges of losses that one might incur, and have been working diligently in making the atmosphere as salubrious as it can get, with their products.
And any potential hazards of fracking have to be put into the context of the critical benefits of switching to gas.
First, greater use of natural gas is a big plus in the struggle to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, since natural gas emits less than either coal or oil. Natural gas is also a substitute for gasoline or diesel in many vehicles (e.g., city buses).
Second, natural gas is already putting downward pressure on oil prices. Falling oil prices will mean substantial savings. Gas can also make us much more resilient to shocks of supply disruptions and even conflicts, eroding the power of major oil producers like the OPEC nations (recall the “oil crisis” of the 1970s) and Russia.
All this will provide powerful economic incentives to develop new technologies to substitute natural gas for gasoline. And as technology improves the efficiency of using natural gas, we can expect significant reductions in the environmental burdens of production. Nuclear, with its own hazards, will be less of an imperative.
America’s soaring natural-gas production has already helped cut our share of oil consumption met by imports to 47% last year from 60% in 2005, according to the Energy Information Administration. The shale-gas revolution, with proper safety practices, can be expected to continue this trend while addressing three longstanding concerns of the energy business: energy scarcity, energy security, and environmental risks. In a word, we have a chance to remake our energy future.
Mr. Zuckerman is chairman and editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report.