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Iowa State University--Becoming the Best

Feasibility of Cooperative Development of Wetland Mitigation Projects


Principal investigator:

Co-principal investigator:

Project status


Start date: 11/01/04
End date: 10/31/05


Sponsor(s): Iowa Highway Research Board

About the research

Abstract: In order to receive a construction permit from the US Army Cops of Engineers (USACE) under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, a wetland mitigation plan must be approved. When avoidance is not possible, wetland banking or cooperative mitigation of wetland losses has the potential to reduce costs, yield larger more sustainable wetlands, and better meet the goals of the Clean Water Act. than on-site mitigation. In practice however, the location with respect to the original impacted wetland, the design, the sustained performance of created wetlands, and long-term ownership and maintenance are difficult issues.

Similarly, many transportation improvement projects involve unavoidable but small impacts to streams and wetlands. Examples include bridge replacement, road widenings, geometric changes to improve safety, or roadway realignments near wetlands. For unavoidable wetland impacts of five acres or less, it is very difficult to purchase a parcel adjacent to the project area or within the watershed to mitigate the wetland loss, leading to high project costs and potential project delays. A mechanism for paying a fee to an established wetland in lieu of building a small and (probably ineffective) mitigation site would be advantageous.

Other states have used wetland banking or in-lieu fees to streamline the mitigation process within the spirit of the Clean Water Act. According to a 2002 report from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program, 26 state DOTs have established their own mitigation banks, 30 states have developed statutes or regulations for wetland banking, and 21 states have an in-lieu fee program.

Research objectives: Determine the need for cooperative wetlands mitigation in Iowa; Identify resources for cooperative wetland mitigation; Develop a conceptual framework to facilitate more centralized wetland mitigation strategies that would reduce costs and improve effectiveness; Identify potential partners; Develop a draft mitigation banking instrument and in-lieu fee programmatic agreement.