Developers Can Rely on Wetlands Mitigation Banking to Offset Environmental Risks with New Projects
BATON ROUGE, LA. — Wetlands mitigation banking has established a track record of success in restoring and preserving crucial ecosystems in many states during the past several decades, while helping smooth the way for commercial development. And as the proven system is positioned to grow and expand, it deserves to be more widely known and recognized, according to a leader in the field overseeing restoration of thousands of acres throughout the South.
A mitigation bank is a site that has potential and natural attributes but may have been altered or damaged through overuse or abuse such as ditching, drainage or logging that changed the landscape. Restoring land to function as part of a healthy ecosystem as nature intended takes time and money, planning and preparation.
Commercial development relies heavily on mitigation banks in states like Florida where population growth requires land and much of the land is environmentally vulnerable, laced with creeks, rivers, wetlands and woods.
One of the pioneers in wetlands mitigation banking, Baton Rouge-based EcoSystem Renewal LLC, has successfully helped restore vulnerable sites throughout Florida, Louisiana and Texas, particularly along the fragile Gulf Coast. The company has a turn-key approach that oversees projects, including dealing with regulatory agencies, and takes the risk of mitigation away from developers.
Anytime a project in Florida — whether commercial, residential, public or private — needs to offset unavoidable impact, developers can turn to one of more than 60 mitigation banks in the state to purchase available credits. Revenue from the sale of credits goes to restore, enhance or preserve environmentally sensitive land in a bank site.
The Wekiva Mitigation Bank in metro Orlando is one prominent example, preserving critical freshwater habitat around Rock Springs Run, which feeds into the Wekiva River, a federally designated “Wild and Scenic River.” More than 70 impact permittees have purchased credits in that bank since 2005, for projects such as schools, business centers, office buildings, an airport, subdivisions and numerous roadways, including the new Wekiva Parkway.
When developers invest in restoration of an approved site, the process actually speeds up development.
With commercial and residential development helping pay for restoring critical ecosystems, it furthers the laudable federal goal of “no net loss of wetlands.” Moran says the mitigation bank process, when done correctly, can be a decisive win-win for the environment, landowners, public and private entities.
— Danny Moran, managing director of Ecosystem Renewal LLC. Moran can be reached at 225-928-5678 (office) or 225-978-9401 (mobile), or via email at [email protected].