Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Gwinnett Mitigation Bank Protects Streams, Wetlands

The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners voted today to record a restrictive covenant on a stream restoration project site along Sweetwater Creek to ensure the property will remain in a restored or preserved state in perpetuity. A recorded restrictive covenant is required to establish the project as a mitigation banking site, thereby allowing stream or wetland restoration credits to be awarded by the US Army Corps of Engineers, deposited into the county’s mitigation bank and later sold by the county. Credits are awarded when the County restores, enhances or preserves streams and/or wetlands.

When public and private entities incur unavoidable losses to streams and wetlands during construction, they must offset that loss by completing restoration work themselves or purchasing restoration credits from a mitigation bank. It is expected that selling credits will help the county offset current project costs at the Sweetwater Creek site and also generate funds to conduct additional stream restoration projects elsewhere. The Gwinnett County Mitigation Bank, along with each credit-generating project, is authorized by the US Army Corps of Engineers with input from the US EPA, US Fish and Wildlife and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Once the restrictive covenant is recorded, the US Army Corps of Engineers will release the first 15 percent of the total mitigation credits for the Sweetwater Creek restoration project. This will be the first deposit of credits into the county’s bank. In total this project will generate approximately 10,200 stream mitigation credits over a seven-year period. At the current market rate for stream credits of approximately $70 to $100 per credit, the project is expected to generate revenues in the range of $700,000 to $1 million.

“These stream restoration projects are necessary to help restore the natural balance in our watersheds,” said Lynn Smarr, Acting Director of the County Water Resources Department. She added that Gwinnett County’s previous establishment of the mitigation bank, and current work with the US Army Corps of Engineers to obtain credits on the Sweetwater Creek project, will reduce the total cost of implementing this and future stream and wetlands restoration projects.
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