Wetland Mitigation is a sequential process that is integral to permitting impacts to natural resources including wetlands. An applicant must first avoid any impacts if possible. If impacts are unavoidable, measures must be considered to reduce impacts as much as possible. Finally, only after these steps have been completed, a compensation plan must be prepared to offset the loss of functions and values associated with the impacted wetlands.
The COE, DEQ, VMRC, and LWB typically accept the following for compensation for wetlands (in order of preference):
- Purchase credits from a wetland mitigation bank.
- Pay into an in-lieu fee fund that restores, creates, and/or preserves wetlands such as the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund (VARTF).
- Onsite creation or restoration of wetlands (often in conjunction with preservation of existing wetlands via deed restriction).
- Offsite creation or restoration of wetlands (often in conjunction with preservation of existing wetlands via deed restriction).
Compensation plans are negotiated during the permit application review process. The conditions for compensation are stated in the final permit from the regulatory agencies and can add out year costs and liability that may have not been originally considered.
Compensation costs can be significant and should be considered early in identifying development costs.