State’s first wetland-fish bank approved: Coweeman River Mitigation Bank will benefit wetland and salmon habitat

Published May 6, 2016

KELSO – Washington state’s first joint wetland and fish habitat bank was signed into operation May 5. This landmark event certifies that the 302-acre mitigation bank along the Coweeman River will now protect wetland functions and create habitat for several life-stages of salmon. 

The Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) have certified the Coweeman River Mitigation Bank to operate in the Lower Columbia River floodplain and the Cowlitz River watershed. Once developed, this wetland bank will provide an option for developers to purchase credits to mitigate for unavoidable impacts to wetlands or aquatic resources. The bank will re-establish, rehabilitate and enhance wetland functions across the site. In addition, the bank will create off-channel rearing, refuge and potential spawning habitat for Endangered Species Act listed salmon as they migrate along this reach of the Coweeman River.

“We’re truly excited to see this bank signed into operation,” said Gordon White, Ecology Shorelands Program manager. “Not only is it the state’s very first joint wetland and fish habitat bank, but the collaboration between everyone involved has developed strong partnerships that will benefit the environment long-term.”

The Coweeman River Mitigation Bank project provided an opportunity for Ecology and the Corps to partner with NOAA Fisheries and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. The agencies also worked closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cowlitz County, City of Kelso, and the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.

Jeffrey Fisher, NOAA Fisheries Lower Columbia Branch chief, commended the establishment of the bank. “This bank is a testament that private-public partnerships can work, and is in keeping with the President’s Memorandum on embracing new approaches for meaningful mitigation in order to preserve our natural environment and the human and ecological services it provides. Such approaches may need to be more assertively embraced if we are to achieve the recovery objectives for endangered salmonids in the West Coast Region.”

“Seattle District’s Mitigation Banking Program has been steadily expanding over the past decade, and the Coweeman River Mitigation Bank represents a new direction and emerging effort for collaboration among regulatory agencies and Native American tribes,” said Gail Terzi, Mitigation Program manager for the Corps Regulatory Branch. “This collaboration is essential to address and provide multi-resource credits at mitigation banks for unavoidable environmental impacts and will result in better mitigation projects.”

Wetland banks engage the private market for conservation

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.

Jessica Payne
Patricia Graesser

Release no. 16-013