Can’t Avoid Regulated Waters in PA? Try Stream-Banking

 · 
May 17, 2024
 · 
2 min read
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Huh? 

Yeh, that’s the typical reaction when someone suggests Streambanking as a solution to your regulated water issues.  As site engineers, we’re all too familiar with what a streambank is – heck, we deal with these on almost every project site.  Stream-banking, however, is a completely different concept.  In short, stream-banking is the process of creating perpetual, regulatory compliant stream segments in one location which can be traded for the removal of similar stream segments in a different location.

Brief History

The concept of stream-banking, also known as mitigation banking, has been around since the 1990’s.  Until not long ago, the use of mitigation banking was mostly being used to offset large-scale wetland removal projects along the Gulf coast of the United States.  Did you know that just a few decades ago huge tracts of wetland areas were routinely removed as a form of mosquito control?  Didn’t take long for the fish to disappear - think “Fly” fishing...

So, with the realization that mass wetland removal was going to result in environmental catastrophe but also considering the U.S. economy’s drug addict-like dependence on a thriving housing industry, mitigation banks and their “Net-zero Loss” vision were born.  The premise being that removing environmental features – a “Debit”, is not harmful if an amount equal to or greater than that removal is created elsewhere – a “Credit”.  The rest is history and lucky for us, mitigation bank companies are now fully operational in Pennsylvania.

How It Works

Mitigation banking is a free-market based system which uses private equity, not tax-payer dollars, to fund a solution to natural resource management.  In some instances, it can involve government funding strategies but primarily involves private capital solutions to environmental degradation. Investors purchase land that, through environmental enhancement, will support the sale of mitigation credits to those who cannot avoid the removal of regulated features on development sites.  The cost of credits depends on several factors but generally fluctuates like most other commodities in a free market economy.

The Players

Credit Sellers:

  • Group or company running the mitigation site, often a long-term steward of the site

Credit Purchaser:

  • Permittee or entity creating the impact requiring credits

Regulatory Agencies:

  • Reviewer or agency responsible for evaluating the need for impact (DEP, USACE, EPA)
  • Agency – the entity responsible for approving mitigation banking sites and coordinating the release of mitigation credits

In Summary

The above constitutes a brief introduction to the mitigation banking industry, its roots and the players involved.  For more detailed information or how it may apply to your site, contact Howell Engineering at 610-918-9002 and ask for Andrew DeFonzo, PE.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Can you say “Bat Banking”…….stay tuned for Part II coming in a future newsletter!

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