OLYMPIA - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) and Lewis and Thurston counties have certified the construction and operation of a privately owned wetland mitigation “bank” on Big Hanaford Creek, a floodplain tributary to the Skookumchuck River in the Chehalis River drainage basin.
Womble Carlyle Ecology Innovations (WCEI) of Tysons Corner, Virginia, the company building and operating the WCEI Chehalis Mitigation Bank, will permanently protect the 177-acre site through a conservation easement.
Wetlands are essential for protecting Washington waters. They support and protect communities and businesses by filtering drinking water, holding flood waters, providing fish and wildlife habitat and helping to sustain wildlife-related recreation.
Wetland mitigation banking creates an economic incentive for restoring, creating, enhancing and preserving wetlands. Wetland banks are an important strategy for engaging the private sector and power of the marketplace to sustain Washington’s remaining wetlands.
Gordon White, manager of Ecology’s shorelands program said: “By working with the county and other community interests, we have learned how this bank offers better options for developers and for environmental protection. And that is important to us - to have innovative programs meet local needs.”
There are 13 other wetland mitigation banks operating across the state. The WCEI Chehalis Mitigation Bank is the first to be formally certified under both state and federal rules in Lewis and Thurston counties.
Corps Regulatory Branch Chief Muffy Walker said: “This site is important for flood storage and habitat function, and the improvements upstream may help downstream on the Skookumchuck River. The bank will expand wetland floodplain rehabilitation provided by adjacent sites, and will provide connectivity to upland and wetland habitats.”
The bank is adjacent to several existing wetland floodplain projects, which will help boost the projects’ effectiveness. These include the Kopiah Wetland Mitigation Project and Pit 7 Rail Alternative Mitigation Project. Having contiguous areas that incorporate similar mitigation activities bolsters the functions of the projects.
The bank is expected to generate credits that developers and local governments can use to offset unavoidable impacts to wetlands in the mitigation bank’s service area.
The bank will offer credits for sale – subject to regulatory approval – for development projects in the upper Chehalis River basin <http://www.ecy.wa.gov/services/gis/maps/wria/wria.htm> .
The availability of these wetlands credits, however, does not eliminate state and federal regulations requiring developers to first avoid and minimize wetland damage.
The Chehalis Basin Wetland Mitigation Bank is located along Hanaford Valley Road, west of the Trans Alta Centralia Steam Plant, at 913 Big Hanaford Creek Road.