Oregon Compensatory Wetland Mitigation: Spatial and Temporal Patterns 2000-2016
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Development projects that have permanent wetland impact in Oregon require compensatory mitigation. This is often achieved through the creation, restoration, enhancement, preservation, or use of other methods that offset the loss of wetlands caused by development. Historically, wetland mitigation has been measured on an acre-for-acre basis under a national policy of no-net loss of wetland acres. However, recent research has shown that the “acre-for-acre” policy is insufficiently maintaining the ecosystem services of permanently impacted wetlands. In 2008, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new federal mitigation rule. The purpose of the rule was to increase the effectiveness of compensatory mitigation. Specifically, the rule called for setting mitigation decisions in the watershed context, where wetland functionality is quantified and maintained. In an effort to bring its compensatory mitigation program more in line with the federal rule, in 2015 the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) established the Oregon Aquatic Resource Mitigation Program (ARMP). The intent of the ARMP is to transition the state’s compensatory mitigation program from an acres-based approach to a function-based accounting focus. As part of this process, DSL desired analyses of (1) historic wetland compensation actions in the state and (2) the degree to which current database systems are suited for evaluating the performance of Oregon’s compensatory wetland mitigation regulations. Few studies have examined the aggregate impact of individual wetland mitigation projects. Further, no identified study has investigated how permanent wetland impacts and compensatory wetland mitigation actions in Oregon have varied spatially and temporally. This project provides a reproducible methodology for (1) analyzing the clustering of wetland loss and mitigation within regulatory watersheds; (2) analyzing the relationship of wetland mitigation and the type of wetland impacted, and (3) analyzing the relationship of wetland mitigation locations and ARMP defined priority conservation lands. These measurements can be used as part of the ARMP program evaluation to track changes in Oregon compensatory wetland mitigation over time. This project analyzed 1,281 individual permitted development projects with permanent wetland impacts from 2000-2016. Of these individual development projects, 1,160 had associated wetland mitigation actions. Some developments utilized multiple compensation methods, and the final dataset analyzed contained 1,535 compensatory wetland mitigation transactions. Analysis was conducted at both the project permanent wetland impact level, and at the compensatory wetland transaction level. This analysis shows that the average acreage of permanent wetland impacts has remained stable over the study period. That is, there has not been a shift in the amount of wetland permanently impacted by individual projects. The number of projects and total annual acreage has significant variation during the study period, but there is not a clear trend in the number of project or annual acreage of permanently impacted wetland. Permanent wetland impacts show significant clustering in the Willamette Basin with just over 50% of permanent wetland impact acreage from 2000-2016 occurring in these three sub-basins. The historic wetland mitigation sites and wetland mitigation bank sites show some existing alignment with the Oregon Wetlands of Conservation Concern. There were nine mitigation banks and 71 mitigation actions taken within Wetland of Conservation Concern from 2000-2016. Overall, from 2000-2016 there has been a substantial shift in mitigation from permittee responsible mitigation to off-site mitigation with the use of mitigation banks.
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