What is a Wetland Mitigation Bank?

Wetland mitigation is the restoration, establishment, enhancement, or (in certain circumstances) preservation of wetlands such as marshes and streams for the purpose of providing compensation for unavoidable negative impacts to aquatic resources.  All mitigation requests are evaluated and authorized by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Wetland mitigation banking is the process, in advance of any authorized impacts, of making “credits” available based on the acreage of functional wetland that was restored or created.  The “credits” can then be sold to entities such as businesses or landowners to meet wetland mitigation requirements determined by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

What are the advantages of Mitigation Banking and why is it good for the community?

Wetland mitigation banking has several benefits over traditional site-specific mitigation, otherwise known as permittee responsible mitigation, which typically involves creating small wetlands usually on the same property as a proposed development.  Historically, site-specific mitigations have had a very significant failure rate due to several factors including: small size, improper maintenance, isolated location, and lack of regulatory oversight. In fact,according to the MDEQ, only 1 in every 5 projects is considered successful overall.

Wetland mitigation banking sites, on the other hand, are typically larger sites (more than 10 acres) and are strategically located to maximize successful establishment of the wetland. Banks are located in areas that provide the most benefit for the watershed.  Bank sites are typically located on marginal agricultural land with historic wetland soils (i.e., hydric soils) and a high water table.  The approval of wetland banks requires significant regulatory oversight and the documentation of success before wetland “credits” can be sold.  The large size, upfront documentation of success, and long-term management requirements of banks result in high quality wetland habitat and significant water quality benefits for the watershed.

FAQs

How is the Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway involved?

The Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway (ODCMG) is leading Project Clarity, a community-wide effort to permanently clean, restore and maintain the waters of Lake Macatawa and the Macatawa Watershed. These waters are hypereutrophic (too rich in nutrients) because of an excess of phosphorus. This can lead to algal blooms, the spread of invasive species, and damage to the local fishery. These problems are compounded because the watershed is also highly susceptible to erosion and flooding. Development that impacts wetlands and streams is linked to the increase of sediment and phosphorus that Project Clarity is trying to address.

ODCMG understands the need to balance the economic development of the region with the impacts to the natural resources in our watershed. Wetland mitigation banking allows for ODCMG to construct large wetland areas that are located and designed to maximize the water quality benefits following the EPA approved Macatawa Watershed Plan while also seeing a financial return that will allow ODCMG to leverage Project Clarity donations for many years to come. To establish the bank, ODCMG has partnered with Niswander Environmental, the largest private wetland mitigation firm in Michigan. Currently, ODCMG has one 40-acre wetland mitigation bank and is hoping to add another 10-acre bank in the near future.

Who manages the Outdoor Discovery Center mitigation banks?

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) have very stringent performance standards for wetland mitigation banks. Typically a bank can be deemed successful and all the wetland “credits” can be released in 3-5 years after initial construction. To meet these standards, ODCMG has partnered with Niswander Environmental to manage the site, which includes water level management, ensuring proper plant and habitat diversity, and invasive plant controls until all “credits” have been released. After the bank is deemed successful, ODCMG’s land management staff will monitor and manage the site in perpetuity. A portion of the funds from the credit sales will be dedicated to the long-term management of the bank.

Who determines when and if wetland mitigation bank credits get released?

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), with oversight from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), determines when and how many credits are released. Niswander Environmental will provide yearly monitoring reports to the MDEQ. MDEQ releases bank credits when certain vegetation, soils, and hydrology standards are met.

Will the wetland mitigation bank be protected forever?

Yes, the wetland mitigation bank has been placed under a conservation easement that is held by the MDEQ. Once the site is deemed to be a successful wetland, the site will be managed as a natural wetland area and no other development activities can occur on the property.

Is the ODCMG wetland mitigation bank open to the Public?

Yes, for certain uses, however the property is privately owned by ODCMG and may close for certain events or seasonally as determined necessary by ODCMG. The ODCMG encourages passive recreational and educational use of the wetland mitigation bank. However, hunting, motorized vehicle use, and any activity which may alter the flora or fauna of the property is not allowed.

When and how are credits purchased?

Wetland Mitigation Banking credits can be purchased by anyone who is required by the regulatory agencies (typically MDEQ) to provide wetland mitigation. Typically wetland mitigation is required as a permit condition for larger developments that are impacting wetland or stream areas. After MDEQ determines the amount of credits required for mitigation and approves the use of a registered mitigation bank, the private transaction between ODCMG and the credit buyer may occur.

What areas are served by the Macatawa Watershed Wetland Mitigation Bank (MWWMB)?

The MWWMB serves the entire Macatawa Watershed and the Jamestown EcoRegion (VI.3.3) which includes areas in Allegan County (portions of Laketown, Fillmore, and Overisel Townships, City of Holland), Ottawa County (portions of Park, Port Sheldon, Grand Haven, Olive, Holland, Blendon, Zeeland, Jamestown, Georgetown, Tallmadge, Wright, Polkton, and Allendale Townships, City of Holland, City of Zeeland, City of Hudsonville, City of Coopersville), Kent County (portions of Byron, Alpine, Sparta, and Tyrone Townships, City of Grandville, City of Wyoming, and City of Walker), Muskegon County (Ravenna, Chester, Moorland, and Casnovia Townships), and Newaygo County (portions of Ashland Township and the City of Grant).
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Who should I contact to purchase wetland mitigation bank credits?

The bank and all credit sales are managed by Niswander Environmental. If you are in need of wetland mitigation bank credits, please contact Niswander Environmental at 810-225-0539.