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Projects to help offset impacts to wetlands from development
04/20/2010
 
NEWS RELEASE – for immediate release                                              10-11
 
More information:                                                                                      
 
Dana Hicks – 503-986-5229; dana.hicks@state.or.us 
Julie Curtis – 503-986-5298; julie.curtis@state.or.us 
 
   
New program will offer “credits” for wetland mitigation on coast, near Portland
 
Salem – Oregon’s work to gain federal recognition of a new wetland mitigation option has paid off with the approval of two new projects recently started on the Salmon River near Lincoln City and on a working farm near Forest Grove.
 
Oregon was the first state in the nation to receive federal approval for the In-Lieu Fee Program (ILF) under 2008 federal mitigation rules. Impacts to wetlands and other waters in Oregon are often co-regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL). The ILF program is administered by DSL.
 
The state has a policy of “no net loss” of wetlands. When projects such as housing, bridges and retail developments will impact more than 50 cubic yards of material in wetlands, project proponents must apply for a removal-fill permit from DSL.
 
Permit conditions include replacing – or mitigating – lost wetland functions. When the type of wetland lost matches what was restored at ILF project sites, developers may purchase wetland “credits” from DSL to satisfy their mitigation requirements. Revenue from selling credits is deposited into a fund earmarked for future wetland restoration.
 
The two new ILF projects will operate similarly to private wetland mitigation banks. Currently there are 20 banks in Oregon, located primarily in the Willamette Valley area. However, many areas don’t have banks within the local watershed. “This is where the ILF program comes in,” said Dana Hicks, DSL’s mitigation specialist. “We can offer credits that aren’t in competition with banks, and at the same time fund high quality wetland restoration that supports regional conservation needs.”   Generally, one acre of impact equals one credit to be purchased.
 
The projects:  
 
Tamara Quays is a tidal reconnection project within the Salmon River estuary near Lincoln City. A 40-acre site developed originally in the 1970s as a mobile home park, it’s now managed by the Siuslaw National Forest (U.S. Forest Service) and is within the Cascade Head Scenic Research Area.
 
Tidal influence was restored to the property in 2009 through removing dikes, filling ditches and removing fill on 17 acres. The tidal marsh now provides habitat for fish, songbirds, raptors and mammals.
 
The project will eventually generate up to 4.33 wetland mitigation credits. Fifteen percent of the total credits – about .64 of one credit – will be released for sale by the end of April.
 
“Tidal habitats are some of our most productive and disproportionately lost wetland types,” said Hicks. “This project builds upon the ongoing restoration efforts in this designated natural estuary.”    
 
Half-Mile Laneis a stream and wetland restoration in the midst of a working farm with the only salmon-safe certified nursery currently operating in Oregon. Located about three miles northwest of Forest Grove, 28 acres of the farm is now set aside through a conservation easement purchased through ILF monies from the landowners, George and Sara Kral. Clean Water Services out of Hillsboro holds the easement and will manage the project.
 
The site and the surrounding watershed have been identified as one of the most important restoration priorities for the Willamette and Tualatin watersheds. In 2006, the Tualatin River Watershed Council identified this ditched section of stream as low functioning habitat and recommended restoring fish passage, stream complexity and riparian conditions.
 
Beginning this summer, the project will restore a salmon-bearing stream and associated wetlands, including forested, scrub-shrub and prairie habitats. The site will provide improved nitrate removal and retention, and habitat for anadromous fish, amphibians, reptiles and pollinators.
 
The Half-Mile Lane project also is a pilot for the Willamette Partnership’s “Counting on the Environment” program, Oregon’s first multi-stakeholder agreement to use a shared accounting system for quantifying impacts and benefits for ecosystem markets. The partnership will explore selling salmon (stream) and temperature credits for a portion of the Half-Mile restoration. More information: www.willamettepartnership.org.
 
Up to 12.15 wetland credits in the Tualatin watershed are expected to be generated when the restoration is fully complete within the next five years. Fifteen percent – about 1.87 credits – will be released by the end of April.
 
“Many projects in Oregon are small, and consequently have smaller wetland impacts,” said Hicks. “Mitigating on-site often isn’t successful, so being able to offer credits for smaller projects is a plus for people in these areas,” she said. There are no wetland banks in the areas that Tamara Quays or Half-Mile will serve.
 
DSL will sell and manage the available wetland credits for the two projects. The project grantees will manage the sites and are responsible for monitoring their success and providing regular progress reports to the state, Hicks said. 
 
The State Land Board consists of Governor Theodore Kulongoski, Secretary of State Kate Brown and State Treasurer Ted Wheeler. The Department of State Lands administers diverse natural and fiscal resources. Many of the resources generate revenue for the Common School Fund, such as state-owned rangelands and timberlands, waterway leases, estates for which no will or heirs exist, and unclaimed property. Twice a year, the agency distributes fund investment earnings to support K-12 public schools. The agency also administers Oregon’s Removal-Fill Law, which requires people removing or filling certain amounts of material in waters of the state to obtain a permit.
 
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