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COMPENSATING FOR WETLAND LOSSES UNDER THE CLEAN WATER ACT
The committee recommends that the Corps and other responsible regulatory authorities take actions to improve the effectiveness of compliance monitoring before and after project construction.
“Long-term stewardship” implies a time frame typically accorded to other publicly valued natural assets, such as parks. This time frame emphasizes the importance of developing mitigation wetlands that are self-sustaining, so that the long-term costs are not unmanageable.
The committee recommends that the Corps, in cooperation with states, encourage the establishment of watershed organizations responsible for tracking, monitoring, and managing wetlands in public ownership or under easement.
The committee recommends that the Corps and other responsible regulatory authorities commit funds to allow staff participation in professional activities and in technical training programs that include the opportunity to share experiences across districts.
The committee recommends that the Corps and other responsible regulatory authorities establish a research program to study mitigation sites to determine what practices achieve long-term performance for creation, enhancement, and restoration of wetland.
To assist permit writers and others in making compensatory mitigation decisions, a reference manual should be developed to help design projects that will be most likely to achieve permit requirements. The manual should be organized around the themes developed in Chapter 7. The committee recommends that the Corps develop such a manual for each region, based in part on the careful enumeration of wetland functions in the 404(b)(1) guidelines and in part on local and national expertise on the difficulty of restoring different wetland types, hydrological conditions, and functions in alternative restoration or creation contexts.
The committee recommends that institutional systems be modified to provide third-party compensatory mitigation with all of the following attributes: timely and assured compensation for all permitted activities, watershed integration, and assurances of long-term sustainability and stewardship for the compensatory wetlands. The committee encourages the Corps and the EPA to work with the states to expand their permitting and watershed planning programs to fill gaps in the federal wetlands program.