by the mitigation specialist would be discussed with the applicant and Corps regulatory staff and ultimately be incorporated into the site location and design requirements of a permit. Once a project is in the ground, it may become evident that aspects of the permitted plan need to be modified. An agency mitigation specialist would have the expertise to troubleshoot the implementation and coordinate adjustments to the plan, the primary goal being that the fundamental ecological and hydrological processes are established.
To move in this direction, the Corps regulatory staff and other responsible agencies must be given opportunity to draw on the ecological and hydrological principles necessary for implementing a watershed approach and developing the site-specific compliance criteria to be placed in permits. Corps and other agency staff must have opportunities for continuing education to ensure that they fully understand the application of these principles in the execution of their permitting and planning responsibilities. Agencies should commit to annual time set aside for each staff member for participation in educational programs, over and above normal regulatory training, including attendance at technical conferences. Therefore, the committee recommends that the Corps commit funds to allow staff participation in professional activities and in technical training programs that include the opportunity to share mitigation experiences across districts.
The committee noted instances where compensatory mitigation was having a positive result in watersheds and other cases that have problems. However, there is insufficient feedback to Corps regulatory staff on whether the performance standards developed for a given project produced the expected results. As a result, the same performance standards are used repeatedly with uncertain results (Streever 1999b). Designing restoration sites to help in learning which approaches work and why (cf. Zedler 2001) can greatly accelerate the learning curve. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism in place to build an experimental design or adaptive management process into mitigation projects in order to learn from these real-world tests of mitigation project design. Therefore, the committee recommends that the Corps establish a research program to study mitigation sites to determine what practices achieve long-term performance for creation, enhancement, and restoration of wetlands.
All of the preceding recommendations increase the likelihood that the mitigation plan will be undertaken as designed and that there will be long-term attention to the site. However, while scientists have developed tools for assessing wetland condition, there is no dependable tool for predicting outcomes of restoration or creation efforts. As an example, hydrogeomorphic (HGM) approach can assist in comparing (a) the system that is lost with (b) a reference site, or (c) the system that is provided