Wetland Mitigation Program

Ooltewah wetlandIn 2011 TCWN initiated a wetland mitigation inspection program. To date this program has resulted in over 150 acres of wetlands protected as well as policy changes at the state level.

The goal of this program is to remedy unsuccessful mitigation sites to address the national goal of “no net loss” of wetland acreage in accordance with state and federal regulations. Wetlands serve vital functions in protecting our environment and water quality. They take in flood waters, acting like a sponge to absorb excess flow. Wetlands also provide habitat and serve as a food source for a variety of aquatic and nonaquatic species. They also filter pollution out of stormwater as it runs off the land and into our streams. Recent research has revealed the importance of wetlands in combating global climate change since they play a role in carbon sequestration.

Despite the significance and value of these water resources the state of Tennessee repeatedly issued permits for wetland impacts without ever ensuring the loss was properly mitigated. When someone wants to fill a wetland he must obtain permission from the state through the issuance of a permit. Permit requirements include, among other conditions, performing mitigation through the creation, restoration or preservation of another wetland or by paying a third party to conduct the mitigation on the permittee’s behalf. Third party mitigation is conducted through a wetland mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program. When the permittee takes on the responsibility of carrying out the mitigation himself he must demonstrate the wetland is successful and functioning typically for five consecutive years and may also have to permanently protect the site. Unfortunately, until recently, the state did little to nothing following up with wetland mitigation sites after the permit was issued. Numerous file reviews conducted by TCWN indicate failures on behalf of the permittee to submit the required monitoring reports, protect the land or, in some cases, even finish the mitigation.

When TCWN discovers a wetland mitigation requirement was not fulfilled we issue a complaint to the state to get the failure remedied. To date, TCWN has successfully corrected 30 permit failures resulting in the additional protection of 150 acres of wetland. We have also seen policy changes at the state, likely a result of TCWN making the state aware of these existing failures. Efforts are now being made to ensure mitigation compliance through follow up by state employees and site visits upon permit termination requests. So future mitigation sites should be better safeguarded. However, numerous existing sites need our help in getting protected.

Program Highlights:
TTC Halls site, Knox County
Gemstone Properties site, Shelby County
Wal-Mart, Putnam County
Dalen Products, Knox County

 

This project is funded by the McKnight Foundation.