Tampa Bay mitigation bank benefits Manatee's watershed
I'd like to offer some additional perspective to a Sept. 11 letter regarding wetland mitigation for the Fort Hamer Bridge project.
Impacts from the project and the proposed wetland mitigation were fully disclosed in the project's Environmental Impact Statement and permit applications, all of which were part of a public review process.
The mitigation is in full compliance with state and federal permitting requirements. In fact, during the permitting process, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recommended use of credits from a mitigation bank within the lower Tampa Bay watershed as a means of complying with their compensatory mitigation requirements.
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County funds will not purchase any property; however, the funds will be used to purchase credits from the Tampa Bay Mitigation Bank (TBMB). This credit purchase is authorized by the state and federal permits issued for the bridge project.
There are currently no wetland mitigation banks permitted by the Corps of Engineers within Manatee County.
Both the bridge project and the TBMB are located within the Tampa Bay watershed. The large-scale wetlands creation and restoration at TBMB -- funded by the sale of credits -- benefits the lower Tampa Bay watershed, including Manatee County.
This watershed-based approach to wetland mitigation is not confined by political boundaries and is encouraged by resource agencies as a mechanism for improving regional ecosystems. Corps mitigation rules require the use of a watershed approach for mitigation to the extent appropriate and practicable.
The Corps' goal of a watershed approach is to maintain and improve the quality and quantity of aquatic resources within watersheds through strategic selection of compensatory mitigation sites.
The TBMB has been instrumental in providing ecological benefits to the Tampa Bay watershed for a number of years. The regulatory agencies view these types of large-scale ecological improvement as preferable to smaller, permittee-responsible mitigation projects with their inherent risks of failure, extended time-lags to realize full ecological benefits and long-term maintenance issues.
Sia Mollanazar, Deputy Director, Manatee County Public Works Manatee County