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Conservation Innovation Grant helps fund South Dakota's first wetland mitigation bank

South Dakota

South Dakota's first wetland mitigation bank has been established on a 100-acre track of land in northwest Minnehaha County. The Tetonka Wetland Mitigation Bank project is a private bank for use of commercial, agricultural, and public wetland mitigation. The intended users of the wetland bank will be urban and agricultural wetland mitigation projects, including private developers and government entities. Sioux Falls and surrounding communities within the big Sioux Watershed will be the primary urban users of the bank for private and public projects. The mitigation bank is a project of the Tetonka LLP, with assistance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The purpose of a wetland mitigation bank is to consolidate wetland restoration projects to serve as compensation for several small, scattered wetland losses. Currently, there is not a wetland bank servicing the Big Sioux Watershed. The Tetonka Wetland Bank will provide a comprehensive approach to the wetland permitting process for developers and agricultural producers. The establishment of this wetland bank will allow development to occur in a more effective, environmentally sensitive manner. The bank will provide compensation for wetlands prior to the actual wetland loss from development in the watershed. Producers and developers may purchase wetlands credits to satisfy Federal and state permit requirements.

"This mitigation bank project is the result of a partnership effort between private, state, and federal agencies," said Janet Oertly, State Conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. "Working together, we were able to develop this alternative for managing wetland resources."

The NRCS provided technical assistance to help restore the wetlands that make up the mitigation bank, with Tetonka LLP being responsible for long-term management and maintenance on the property. A $75,000 Conservation Innovation Grant from NRCS was used to help get the project started.

Resource agencies and area agricultural producers have recognized the need for a wetland mitigation bank in South Dakota for many years. The Big Sioux Watershed is in the heart of the Prairie Pothole region, which produces a majority of the migratory waterfowl in the United States. The rising agricultural land prices and development pressure have caused a rise in the number of wetlands being impacted in this region. A wetland mitigation bank will help to preserve wetlands in the Pothole region, improve water quality, and allow producers more flexibility in managing their wetland resources.

Through the bank, producers who want to convert farmed wetlands on their property to non-wetlands have the opportunity to purchase wetland credits. These producers do not mitigate on their own farms for the wetland conversion, but on land that is part of the mitigation bank. The overall approach to developing a mitigation bank is to allow for the establishment of a larger contiguous wetland area able to replace the functions and values of the lost wetlands.

There are many wetlands mitigation banks currently operated across the United States. Conservation banks are now being used to help restore other kinds of natural resources as well. Their growing popularity reflects the fact that mitigation banks are more cost effective as a means of restoring natural resources, can reduce delays in permitting, eliminates the temporary loss of natural resources during development, and assures maintenance of these vital natural areas.

Members of the Mitigation Bank Review Team that oversaw the development and implementation of the project included the NRCS, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, and the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

For more information about wetland mitigation go to www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/farmbill/1996/MitgFact.html, for information about CIG go to www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/cig/.

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