Compensatory mitigation is the restoration, establishment, enhancement, or preservation of aquatic resources for the purpose of offsetting unavoidable losses of aquatic resources resulting from activities authorized by Corps permits.
The Corps' mitigation policy, relative to projects authorized under our Regulatory Program, is explained in a Memorandum of Agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army, which was signed on February 6, 1990. The memorandum establishes that: "The Corps will strive to avoid adverse impacts and offset unavoidable adverse impacts to existing aquatic resources, and for wetlands, will strive to achieve a goal of no overall net loss of values and functions."
If a proposed permit action would result in impacts to wetlands, these special conditions often include provisions requiring the permittee to compensate for the expected impact. This compensation is commonly referred to as compensatory mitigation. It may also be referred to simply as mitigation, although strictly speaking, it is only one of three forms of mitigation.
The first two forms, avoidance and minimization are typically addressed through alternative siting and/or modifications to the project design. For most permits and in particular those subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act, avoidance and minimization of impacts to aquatic resources, including wetlands, must be addressed prior to considering compensatory mitigation. Compensatory mitigation, therefore, is only utilized to offset impacts which are otherwise unavoidable. The process of incorporating all appropriate and practicable measures to avoid, minimize and, finally, compensate for impacts to aquatic resources caused by permit actions is referred to as mitigation sequencing.
There are three ways compensatory mitigation can be provided: mitigation banks, in-lieu fee programs, and permittee-responsible mitigation. Mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs are generally the preferred options for compensatory mitigation because they consolidate resources and involve more financial planning and scientific expertise. These factors help reduce the risk of failure of mitigation projects.
Click on the links below for more information on different types of compensatory mitigation.