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Wetland Mitigation Options Expanding
Project developers along Oregon’s coast, in the Portland area, and in southern Oregon will soon have an additional option for meeting their obligation to replace lost wetland functions for projects sited on wetlands.
 
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) recently approved expanding the current Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) In-Lieu-Fee Program to allow the sale of advance credits in watersheds represented by portions of Clatsop, Coos, Tillamook, Multnomah, Columbia and Douglas counties.
 
Mitigation payments received by DSL are deposited into a fund earmarked for future wetland restoration projects. The agency combines funds collected within each watershed to construct a wetland project that will replace wetland acres and functions lost to development.  
 
DSL will make advance credits available for sale in each watershed once a wetland site has been identified by DSL and it has been preliminarily reviewed by the Corps and an interagency review team. Construction of the mitigation projects must begin within three years of accepting a payment. DSL is now seeking viable wetland restoration projects in the six watershed regions to begin offering credits to the public, said Dana Hicks, the agency’s mitigation specialist.  
 
Hicks said since 2008, the program has funded two constructed wetland restoration projects that generated credits for developments in Washington County, southern Tillamook County and northern Lincoln County.
 
This program offers something for everyone, said Hicks, including:
 
·         A mechanism for developers to proceed with projects that weren’t viable because of compensatory mitigation constraints.
·         An opportunity for the state to accomplish projects with high conservation values.
·         A chance for local, state and federal organizations involved in natural resource management to collaborate in achieving regional conservation goals                   
    
 
Agency pursuing legislation to change credit pricing
 
Payments are currently based on the average cost of mitigation credits available from private mitigation banks operating in the state – $74,000 per acre at present.  DSL is working on legislation for the 2013 session that would better align credit pricing with regional mitigation costs, which can vary widely, according to DSL mitigation specialist Dana Hicks.
 
“Costs vary based on what it takes to restore wetlands at a particular site, and of course the variability in land value and construction costs around the state,” Hicks said. “A revised pricing structure would allow DSL to pass cost savings on to the public whenever possible,” she said.  
 
Contact Dana Hicks (503-986-5229) for additional information on the program