Gulf Coast — Commercial developers nationwide, and particularly the Southeastern United States, are keeping a close watch on proposed changes to federal rules governing development in and around wetlands, lakes, streams and other water bodies. Proposed revamping of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule by the Trump administration would make it easier and less costly for development in some cases, but also would have potential impact on the mitigation banking sector.
The proposed rule changes are still in the comment period and leaders in mitigation banking say the outcome is uncertain, particularly for how mitigation banks operate. “If passed, it would affect mitigation banking because our banks are part of jurisdictional waters,” said Danny Moran, Managing Director of EcoSystem Renewal LLC., a turnkey mitigation banking pioneer based in Baton Rouge, La.
A mitigation bank is a piece of land, typically hundreds or thousands of acres, being restored and preserved to function as part of a historic ecosystem to benefit the environment and wildlife. For the past several decades, the mitigation banking sector has been playing a major, though largely unheralded, role in aiding commercial development while protecting vulnerable environmental sites.
Moran, Vice Chairman of the National Environmental Banking Association, said mitigation banks have not gotten the credit they deserve for the major benefits they have provided in the past two decades. EcoSystem Renewal, which has helped develop and oversee mitigation banks throughout the Southeast, is now working to educate the public, private and public entities, landowners and developers, about how mitigation banking works.
Any time a developer has a proposed project that will impact wetlands, for example, they must “offset” the impact in order to get a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. They can do so by buying credits in a bank site, such as the Gulf Coastal Plains Mitigation Bank, which EcoSystem Renewal helps manage. Developers do have the option of doing environmental restoration work on their own, but it is costly and risky. Established mitigation banks assume all the risks and make it easier and faster for developers to proceed with their projects.
One example of a recent, challenging project that EcoSystem Renewal played a major role in was the deepening of the channel at the Port of Houston, to accommodate larger ships. The Port of Houston purchased mitigation credits in the Gulf Coastal Plains Mitigation Bank, a region that comprises tidal wetlands and marsh and provides an environmental buffer along the coast. Developments all up and down the channel, including two big warehouses, obtained credits with the help of EcoSystem Renewal, in order to proceed with their development.
“That Port of Houston project provides billions of dollars in commerce,” Moran said, thanks in part to the mitigation banking process, which offers opportunities for a win-win scenario for development as well as the environment. Visit ecosystemrenewal.com.
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For more information, contact
Danny Moran, Managing Director, EcoSystem Renewal, LLC, 225-928-5678 or 888-294-8101
Will Beaty, Director of Sales and Marketing, EcoSystem Renewal, LLC, 888-294-8101 ext 802, firstname.lastname@example.org
Beth Payan, Larry Vershel Communications 407-644-4142 or 407-461-3781 Beth@LarryVershel.com