Regulatory Challenges and Solutions for Successful Implementation of Advance Mitigation

Clifton Meek, U.S. EPA
Andrew Amacher, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Topic Area
Mitigation for Transportation Projects

Federal and State resource agencies have long recognized the benefits of planning for mitigation of transportation project impacts in advance of project permitting and implementation. Aside from the obvious benefit of avoiding temporal loss of habitat, advance mitigation allows us to improve environmental outcomes by consolidating compensatory mitigation needs from multiple projects in a given area and investing them strategically to address watershed and conservation priorities. Additionally, agencies see an opportunity to improve mitigation success and compliance by having proactively planned and delivered advance mitigation. Despite these benefits, many regulatory challenges have arisen in attempting to successfully implement advance mitigation through the Caltrans Advance Mitigation Program. This is the result of a regulatory framework that was built to address mitigation on a project-by-project basis.

What changes had to be made to that framework to allow for different types of Advance Mitigation? What additional tools and/or policies were created? How do you track a mitigation credit that has been bought or produced, but will not be attached to a particular project or permit for many years? If the purchasing agency ultimately does not need that credit as a result of avoidance/minimization, can it be transferred to another agency for use? If Mitigation Bank credits are bought in bulk to address future mitigation needs, what are the repercussions for bank sponsors? Can a Bank close before those credits are assigned to projects? If so, how are those outstanding credits managed? These challenges and others will be defined, and existing or proposed solutions will be discussed from both a federal and state resource agency perspective. The challenges and solutions presented will provide valuable lessons for those of us working on Advance Mitigation in California, as well as state DOTs, mitigation providers, and resource agencies outside of California as they pursue Advance Mitigation programs of their own.

This presentation can be paired with other Caltrans Advance Mitigation Program related sessions, or could complement sessions discussing Regional Advance Mitigation Planning and Regional Conservation Investment Strategies/Mitigation Credit Agreement development. Also, there is flexibility in how it can be organized. While I am proposing it as a single podium presentation, it could be expanded to become a more extensive panel including representatives from several resource agencies, including the Corps, EPA, CDFW, and USFWS.

Abstract Keywords
Mitigation
Interagency
Regulatory