- What is it?
Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season.
Wetlands can range in size and scope from small marshes to an area as large as the Everglades. Two general categories of wetlands are recognized: coastal (tidal) and inland (non-tidal).
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) established a program, requiring a permit, before dredged or fill material may be discharged into waters of the United States, including wetlands.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) administers the day-to-day program, including individual and general permit decisions; conducts or verifies jurisdictional determinations; develops policy and guidance; and enforces Section 404 provisions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) develops and interprets policy, guidance and environmental criteria used in evaluating permit applications; determines scope of geographic jurisdiction and applicability of exemptions; reviews and comments on individual permit applications; has authority to prohibit, deny, or restrict the use of any defined area as a disposal site (Section 404(c)); can elevate specific cases (Section 404(q)); and enforces Section 404 provisions.
- What has the Army done?
There are over 1,374,965 acres of wetlands on Army installations. Each year the Army executes projects (mostly construction) that could potentially impact the nation’s rivers, streams, wetlands and other aquatic resources. Compensatory mitigation is necessary to replace aquatic resources lost to authorized and unavoidable impacts to ensure “no net loss” of the nation’s wetlands.
The 2008 Compensatory Mitigation Rule established performance standards and criteria to improve the quality and success of compensatory mitigation projects authorized by Corps permits. Some Army installations can’t conduct the required compensatory mitigation on-site, so they use mitigation and/or in-lieu fee banks as compensatory mitigation.
The Rule defines a Mitigation Bank as, “… a site, or suite of sites, where resources (e.g., wetlands, streams, riparian areas) are restored, established, enhanced, and/or preserved for the purpose of providing compensatory mitigation for impact authorized by Department of Army permits.” In-Lieu Fee mitigation occurs in circumstance where a permittee provides funds to an In-Lieu Fee sponsor instead of either completing project-specific mitigation or purchasing credits from a wetland mitigation bank. Mitigation banking is initiated in advance of the impact; reduces uncertainty of whether the compensatory mitigation will be successful in offsetting project impacts; and reduces permit processing time and provides more cost-effective compensatory mitigation opportunities.
Installation Management Command (IMCOM) installations participate in 10 Wetland Mitigation and/or In-Lieu Fee Banks.
- What does the Army have planned?
IMCOM Army installations are working on participating in 12 more Wetland Mitigation and/or In-Lieu Fee Banks to mitigate impacts to the wetlands.
- Why is this important?
Since 1600, America has lost more than half of its wetlands. To protect against further loss, the nation has in recent years adopted a policy of "no net loss" of wetlands.
Wetlands are often called the nurseries of life because they provide a rich mix of nutrients, insects and plants that make them ideal nesting, resting, feeding and breeding grounds for many different types of creatures. Over a third of all federally listed rare and endangered species live in or depend upon wetlands. In addition, wetlands control flooding, improve water quality and serve as rest stops for migratory birds.
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