Written by: Joyce Marzano, Senior Ecologist
The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), along with the Ohio Interagency Review Team (IRT), are developing a new approach to compensatory mitigation for projects requiring mitigation for wetland and stream impacts. These changes will undeniably affect the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division of USACE and are scheduled for release in 2018. Here’s what you need to know:
- Stream and Wetland Valuation Metric – Upon release, compensatory mitigation will be completed using the Ohio Stream and Wetland Valuation Metric (SWVM) where applicable. Mitigation for impacts within the Appalachian portion of Ohio will utilize a separate hydrogeomorphic (HGM) approach.
- Debit/Credit Approach to Compensatory Mitigation – Under the SWVM, compensatory mitigation will be evaluated using a debit/credit approach rather than the existing framework using ratios or linear feet. The SWVM is intended to be a site and project specific ecological-based approach to mitigation when compared to the existing approach. The HGM approach is not a debit/credit system, but rather a rapid assessment protocol.
- More Data Collection – Additional data collection activities will likely be required to establish baseline conditions of impacted streams and wetlands. For example, the stream portion of the SWVM is expected to use an assortment of USEPA rapid bioassessment protocols (RPBs) to assess the physical, chemical and biological integrity of an impacted waterway instead of just completing a Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index (QHEI)/Headwater Habitat Evaluation Index (HHEI). Additional data collection may include, but is not limited to, conductivity and dissolved oxygen readings, macroinvertebrate assessment and laboratory testing of water samples.
- SWVM Release Date – The stream portion of the SWVM, which will be applicable for wadable streams, is expected to be released in early to mid-2018. The wetland portion of the SWVM is expected to be released tentatively in Summer 2018.
- Formal Public Comment – A formal public comment period is not expected upon release of the new protocol. Instead, the USACE will accept and evaluate comments continuously and intends to issue revisions to the SWVM as they deem necessary.
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