As part of a project for the Georgia Environmental Restoration Association (GERA), River Basin Center researchers Jon Skaggs and Katie Hill are investigating whether 404 permit holders are following through on Clean Water Act requirements for mitigation to physical impacts on streams and wetlands.
The condition of most 404 permits is that holders must offset permitted impacts, including restoring similar aquatic resources in the same general watershed, one of the same size and/or provide same level of functionality; this process is referred to as compensatory mitigation. Much of the restoration done is Georgia is conducted through mitigation banks, or privately owned large scale restoration projects where bank owners sell credits to permittees for their offsets.
GERA suspected that some permittees weren’t purchasing required mitigation credits and contracted the River Basin Center to conduct a permit review of 404 projects from the last five years that required mitigation but hadn’t yet purchased credits. The researchers used satellite imagery to confirm that the project had taken place. They found 41 sites where it appeared as though impacts had occurred but no mitigation credits had been purchased.
This analysis will be repeated annually in the hope that RBC researchers can support healthy watersheds by encouraging the appropriate offset of stream and wetland impacts.