SEATTLE—U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the Hood Canal Coordinating Council (HCCC) In-lieu Fee Mitigation Program. Col. Bruce Estok, the Army Corps of Engineer’s Seattle District Commander, signed the document July 6.
The HCCC ILF Mitigation Program would be applicable for aquatic resource impacts within the Hood Canal watershed. The service area for the HCCC ILF, defined as the geographic area within which impacts can be mitigated, includes freshwater areas draining to, and the marine and nearshore areas of, Hood Canal. The 16-member Interagency Review Team (IRT), who met regularly for 11 months to negotiate and develop the HCCC ILF Program Instrument, consists of representatives from federal, state, local and tribal entities. Members of the IRT include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Washington State Department of Ecology, acting as IRT co-chairs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Kitsap County, Jefferson County, Mason County, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, Skokomish Tribe, Suquamish Tribe, and Puget Sound Partnership. The resultant ILF Program was a collaborative effort between all IRT members who worked with diligence and respect for a wide range of views and ideas.
“This program will provide long-term, large-scale benefits for Hood Canal with focused permanent protection and ecological lift,” said Col. Bruce Estok.
The HCCC ILF is Seattle District’s second authorized ILF Program (King County being the first, authorized in March 2012) and consists of a detailed and robust program with tight legal sideboards. The term “in-lieu fee program” refers to a program involving restoration, establishment, enhancement, and/or preservation of aquatic resources through funds paid to a governmental or non-profit natural resources management entity to satisfy compensatory mitigation requirements. Similar to a mitigation bank, an In-lieu Fee (ILF) program sells compensatory mitigation credits to permittees whose obligation to provide compensatory mitigation is then transferred to the in-lieu fee program sponsor.
Traditionally, compensatory mitigation has been implemented on a project-by-project basis at or near each impact site. Mitigation banking and In-Lieu Fee programs are forms of compensatory mitigation that can consolidate what would otherwise be several smaller, lower quality compensatory mitigation projects into a single project that provides greater overall environmental benefit. Mitigation banks and ILF Programs can provide effective compensation when other forms of compensatory mitigation are not available, practicable, or environmentally preferable.
The HCCC ILF Mitigation Program is an ILF program being proposed as a means to meet the requirements for compensatory mitigation associated with projects, which may be permitted by the Corps and/or Ecology. The program will also serve as a compensatory mitigation option for local and tribal jurisdictions within the Hood Canal watershed. The program will provide an alternative to permittee-responsible mitigation.
The mitigation sequence (avoid, minimize, mitigate) established by the Clean Water Act is still in effect. Permit applicants must still avoid impacts to the maximum extent practicable; remaining unavoidable impacts must then be minimized, and finally compensated for to the extent appropriate and practicable.