play a role in shaping the future of their watershed. The NCWRP then utilizes the Basinwide Wetlands and Riparian Restoration Plans to target and prioritize degraded wetland and riparian areas, which, if restored, could contribute significantly to the goal of protecting and enhancing watershed functions.

The rational for focusing NCWRP restoration resources in priority watersheds was based on two assumptions. First, it was assumed that, although most watersheds in the state could benefit from wetlands and riparian area restoration, restoration may be more effective, efficient, and feasible in certain watersheds. Second, some watersheds need restoration sooner than others in order to either preserve their threatened natural resources or improve their degraded status before it becomes too late to make a difference. Prioritizing watersheds based on restoration feasibility and the critical nature of restoration needs helps to ensure that resources are used in the most efficient manner to maximize achievement of program goals.

An applicant may satisfy compensatory wetland mitigation requirements by the following actions, provided those actions are consistent with the basinwide restoration plans and also meet or exceed the requirements of the Corps: payment of a fee established by DENR into the Wetlands Restoration Fund (WRF); donation of land to the Wetlands Restoration Program (WRP) or to other public or private nonprofit conservation organizations as approved by DENR; participation in a private wetland mitigation bank; and preparing and implementing a wetland restoration plan.

The WRF was established as a nonreverting fund within DENR and was seeded with a $6 million appropriation from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and $2.5 million annually from the North Carolina Department of Transportation for a period of 7 years for the development of LWPs. The WRF provides a repository for monetary contributions and donations or dedications of interests in real property to promote projects for the restoration, enhancement, preservation, or creation of wetlands and riparian areas and for payments made in lieu of compensatory mitigation. Funds expended from the WRF for any purpose must be in accordance with the basinwide plan and contribute directly to the acquisition, perpetual maintenance, enhancement, restoration, or creation of wetlands and riparian areas, including the cost of restoration planning, long-term monitoring, and maintenance of restored areas. Monetary fees to the WRF are established by the EMC on a standardized schedule on a per-acre basis based on ecological functions and values of wetlands permitted to be lost.

The DENR must report each year by November 1 to the Environmental Review Commission regarding its progress in implementing the WRP and its use of monies in the WRF. The report must document statewide

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