Wetland mitigation is the restoration, establishment, enhancement, or (in certain circumstances) preservation of wetlands such as marshes and streams for the purpose of providing compensation for unavoidable negative impacts to aquatic resources. All mitigation requests are evaluated and authorized by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Wetland mitigation banking is the process, in advance of any authorized impacts, of making “credits” available based on the acreage of functional wetland that was restored or created. The “credits” can then be sold to entities such as businesses or landowners to meet wetland mitigation requirements determined by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Wetland mitigation banking has several benefits over traditional site-specific mitigation, otherwise known as permittee responsible mitigation, which typically involves creating small wetlands usually on the same property as a proposed development. Historically, site-specific mitigations have had a very significant failure rate due to several factors including: small size, improper maintenance, isolated location, and lack of regulatory oversight. In fact,according to the MDEQ, only 1 in every 5 projects is considered successful overall.
Wetland mitigation banking sites, on the other hand, are typically larger sites (more than 10 acres) and are strategically located to maximize successful establishment of the wetland. Banks are located in areas that provide the most benefit for the watershed. Bank sites are typically located on marginal agricultural land with historic wetland soils (i.e., hydric soils) and a high water table. The approval of wetland banks requires significant regulatory oversight and the documentation of success before wetland “credits” can be sold. The large size, upfront documentation of success, and long-term management requirements of banks result in high quality wetland habitat and significant water quality benefits for the watershed.
The ODC Network is leading Project Clarity, a community-wide effort to permanently clean, restore and maintain the waters of Lake Macatawa and the Macatawa Watershed. These waters are hypereutrophic (too rich in nutrients) because of an excess of phosphorus. This can lead to algal blooms, the spread of invasive species, and damage to the local fishery. These problems are compounded because the watershed is also highly susceptible to erosion and flooding. Development that impacts wetlands and streams is linked to the increase of sediment and phosphorus that Project Clarity is trying to address.
We understand the need to balance the economic development of the region with the impacts to the natural resources in our watershed. Wetland mitigation banking allows us to construct large wetland areas that are located and designed to maximize the water quality benefits following the EPA approved Macatawa Watershed Plan while also seeing a financial return that will allow us to leverage Project Clarity donations for many years to come. To establish the bank, the ODC Network has partnered with Niswander Environmental, the largest private wetland mitigation firm in Michigan. Currently, we have a 40-acre wetland mitigation bank and is hoping to add another 10-acre bank in the near future.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) have very stringent performance standards for wetland mitigation banks. Typically a bank can be deemed successful and all the wetland “credits” can be released in 3-5 years after initial construction. To meet these standards, we have partnered with Niswander Environmental to manage the site, which includes water level management, ensuring proper plant and habitat diversity, and invasive plant controls until all “credits” have been released. After the bank is deemed successful, our land management staff will monitor and manage the site in perpetuity. A portion of the funds from the credit sales will be dedicated to the long-term management of the bank.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), with oversight from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), determines when and how many credits are released. Niswander Environmental will provide yearly monitoring reports to the MDEQ. MDEQ releases bank credits when certain vegetation, soils, and hydrology standards are met.
Yes, the wetland mitigation bank has been placed under a conservation easement that is held by the MDEQ. Once the site is deemed to be a successful wetland, the site will be managed as a natural wetland area and no other development activities can occur on the property.
Yes, for certain uses, however the property is privately owned by the ODC Network and may close for certain events or seasonally as determined necessary by our leadership team. We encourage passive recreational and educational use of the wetland mitigation bank. However, hunting, motorized vehicle use, and any activity which may alter the flora or fauna of the property is not allowed.
Wetland Mitigation Banking credits can be purchased by anyone who is required by the regulatory agencies (typically MDEQ) to provide wetland mitigation. Typically wetland mitigation is required as a permit condition for larger developments that are impacting wetland or stream areas. After MDEQ determines the amount of credits required for mitigation and approves the use of a registered mitigation bank, the private transaction between the ODC Network and the credit buyer may occur.
The MWWMB serves the entire Macatawa Watershed and the Jamestown EcoRegion (VI.3.3) which includes areas in Allegan County (portions of Laketown, Fillmore, and Overisel Townships, City of Holland), Ottawa County (portions of Park, Port Sheldon, Grand Haven, Olive, Holland, Blendon, Zeeland, Jamestown, Georgetown, Tallmadge, Wright, Polkton, and Allendale Townships, City of Holland, City of Zeeland, City of Hudsonville, City of Coopersville), Kent County (portions of Byron, Alpine, Sparta, and Tyrone Townships, City of Grandville, City of Wyoming, and City of Walker), Muskegon County (Ravenna, Chester, Moorland, and Casnovia Townships), and Newaygo County (portions of Ashland Township and the City of Grant).
Interested in learning more about Mitigation Bank or purchasing credits? Get in touch with us!