OLYMPIA – The new 121.86 acre Weatherwax Wetland and Habitat Bank will preserve and enhance a rare and unique ecosystem within the city of Ocean Shores.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) have certified the operation of a wetland mitigation bank on land owned by the City of Ocean Shores located within the city boundaries in Grays Harbor County.
The City of Ocean Shores will preserve, enhance, and operate the bank, referred to as the “Weatherwax Wetland and Habitat Bank,” and will permanently protect the bank site through a conservation easement. “After an advisory vote of the people, the City of Ocean Shores worked for several years to preserve and enhance these wetlands and the associated habitat,” said Mayor of Ocean Shores, Crystal Dingler. “We are very excited about achieving this goal through this collaborative effort with the Corps and Ecology.”
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 supporting wildlife-related recreation. Wetland mitigation banks are an important strategy for engaging the private sector and power of the marketplace to sustain Washington’s remaining wetlands. This bank will be no exception.
While there are 15 other banks operating across the state, the Weatherwax Wetland and Habitat Bank is the first to be certified in Grays Harbor County.
Corps Seattle District Regulatory Branch Chief Muffy Walker said: “Mitigation banks are an important tool for the Corps to have available for improving the success of environmental protection efforts within the City of Ocean Shores and Grays Harbor County.”
The Weatherwax Wetland and Habitat Bank site is comprised of historic dunal formations to the west and east. It is the last remaining large, undeveloped segment of land containing high quality wetlands within Ocean Shores and surrounding area. The wetland bank will protect critical wetlands and uplands and provide perpetual water quality, hydrologic, and habitat functions for an important wetland system. The bank site includes forested uplands with mature and old growth trees.
The Weatherwax Wetland and Habitat Bank is primarily a preservation project. It also includes enhancement elements that will offer credits, subject to regulatory approval, for development projects within the service area approved for the bank. The service area includes a portion of the Lower Chehalis Basin Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 22, primarily in Grays Harbor County with a small portion in Pacific County.
Once operational, Weatherwax will provide an opportunity for developers to move more quickly through the state environmental review process. Gordon White, Shorelands Program Manager at Ecology, supports the city’s efforts to make the wetland bank ready to run. “People love living with nature,” said Gordon, “In Ocean Shores and the nearby region, this wetland bank will make it easier for people to live near the features that make the area so attractive. We’re impressed with how the local government has taken initiative to make offsetting the impacts of development more efficient.”
The availability of wetlands credits, however, does not eliminate state and federal regulations protecting the environment. First and foremost, developers are required to avoid and minimize adverse impacts to wetlands and other aquatic resources. If avoiding impacts is not possible, purchasing wetland banking credits is an option. “We appreciate the opportunity to protect the wetlands and habitat while having the banking mechanism in place to help the City recover the costs of purchasing and maintaining the Weatherwax property,” said Mayor Dingler.
The bank is located within the eastern portion of the Ocean Shores peninsula, immediately south of Overlake Street and includes a portion of Duck Lake. Most of the currently preserved areas within, or near, the Ocean Shores peninsula protect estuarine wetlands within Grays Harbor Bay. The only other areas of freshwater wetlands within the peninsula that are protected from development are interdunal wetland complexes within 200 feet of the ordinary high water mark of the Pacific Ocean, and in the northern portion of the peninsula, near Ocean City State Park.
Weatherwax Wetland and Habitat Bank details:
Wetland mitigation banking: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/wetlands/mitigation/banking/index.html
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: http://www.nws.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/Regulatory/PermitGuidebook/Mitigation.aspx
Ecology Mitigation That Works site: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/mitigation/index.html
Ecology Shorelands & Environmental Assistance Program: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/shorelan.html
National Wetlands Conservation Grant Program: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/wetlands/stewardship/pdf/grantsummaries.pdf
Ecology’s website: http://www.ecy.wa.gov
Ecology’s social media: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/about/newmedia.html
Release no. 16-011