State Proposes New Stream and Wetland Mitigation Program

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The State of Indiana has formally requested that a new in-lieu fee program for stream and wetland mitigation be established in Indiana.  This will be a substantial change from current mitigation efforts and your input is needed.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is seeking comments to determine whether to approve the program.  Comments are due August 18th, and 3 public outreach sessions next week.

The proposed Indiana Stream and Wetland Mitigation Program (IN SWMP) would be used for compensatory mitigation for unavoidable impacts to waters of the United States and isolated wetlands in the State of Indiana.  Permits are required for such work through federal and state agencies.  The goal of the program is to provide an alternative to permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation that will effectively replace functions, values, and services lost through permitted direct and secondary impacts.  This is a very technical way of saying that if any type of land development or construction will negatively impact streams or wetlands, such parties are required through permits to “make up for” such harm by doing work to restore, replace or protect other stream and/or wetland areas.  The new program would establish an Interagency Review Team (IRT) among federal and state agencies, and would involve local stakeholders as well.

Previously, impacts to stream and wetland resources were mitigated by the parties causing such impacts in other suitable areas or in an approved mitigation bank.  The new “in-lieu fee” option would allow parties to make a payment to the Indiana Natural Resources Foundation, which would oversee the accumulated funds to establish or restore habitat for fish and wildlife resources.  To explore the full details of the proposed program,  visit the Army Corps of Engineers website.

Also, on July 15th, 2014, the Indiana Natural Resources Commission (NRC) gave final approval to a new rule that allows an applicant for a Indiana Department Of Natural Resources (DNR) construction permit the option of paying a fee to offset harmful impacts to fish, wildlife and botanical resources resulting from the project. The rule received preliminary approval a year ago and was subject to a public comment period and public hearing before returning to the NRC on Tuesday for final consideration. The new rules are not yet in effect and must still be reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office and Governor’s Office.

Indiana’s conservation community hopes to ensure that this program will be effective and will not result in the endangerment Indiana’s natural resources. The state will be hosting a series of informational sessions on the approved rule to inform the community and answers questions. Below is information on those sessions. Potato Creek State Park is the closest of the locations to Northwest Indiana.

Aug. 5 at Spring Mill State Park Inn, 3333 State Road 60 E., Mitchell.
Aug. 6 at Fort Harrison State Park Inn, 5830 N. Post Road, Indianapolis.
Aug. 7, Potato Creek State Park, 25601 State Road 4, North Liberty.

A presentation will be given at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. local time (please check time zones) at each location. Representatives of the DNR and INRF will be on hand to answer questions.

To submit comments by email, please do the following:

a) In the subject line of your email, type in ONLY the Public Notice ID No. “LRL-2014-100-lcl.”
b) Provide your mailing address and telephone number.
c) Send your email to: lrl.regulatorypubliccomment@usace.army.mil
d) If you are sending attachments greater than 1 Mb in size with your email, you must send a hard copy (CD or paper) to the Corps’ physical address as well.

 

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