Tuscaloosa, Ala. — A successful collaborative project in Shelby County has been repeated in Tuscaloosa County, bringing the first mitigation bank to the Black Warrior – Tombigbee River Basin.
Big Sandy Mitigation Bank, a 1,060-acre property located in South Tuscaloosa County adjacent to the Talladega National Forest, Oakmulgee District, is the result of Freshwater Land Trust and Westervelt Ecological Services (WES) working in conjunction to place property into a conservation easement, offering full-service mitigation credits for environmental impacts to streams and wetlands. The first project, Yellowleaf Mitigation Bank, was opened in Shelby County in 2006. The mitigation bank will ultimately protect a 4-mile stretch on both sides of Big Sandy and South Sandy Creeks.
A formal mitigation bank is a site approved to provide mitigation by environmental regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Alabama Department of Environmental Management and Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. This bank was the first mitigation bank approved in Alabama under the new federal Wetlands Compensatory Mitigation Rule established to increase mitigation standards, and the new interagency mitigation banking template designed to improve coordination between agencies in establishing these sites.
Mitigation banks provide enhanced environmental benefit over smaller, piecemeal mitigation, with inherent biological, financial and legal assurances to ensure mitigation success. Economic advantages to public and private sector developers include economies of scale, reduced permitting time and costs, and severance of liability.