Florida looks to increase number of wetland mitigation banks, credits available to developers
The state has 131 wetlands mitigation banks available today.
Mitigation credits for wetlands, while still controversial among conservationists, remain a high-demand service in Florida. Meanwhile, the state only has so much space in existing banks.
Water quality officials told Florida lawmakers they intend to open another 30 sites on top of the 131 mitigation banks already in operation in Florida. Mitigation banks today cover almost 227,500 acres of land around the state.
“The bankers are out there hustling,” said Christine Wentzel, a regulatory manager for the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Developers under Florida law may offset the impacts of projects on wetlands by buying and maintaining areas near wetlands that can be restored to serve the same ecological purpose. In a presentation to the House Water Quality, Supply and Treatment Subcommittee, Wentzel discussed how credits are calculated and defended the value of the program to the state’s ecology.
The state looks to grow the available number of mitigation banks as state and federal environmental officials navigate a changing legal environment. The U.S. Supreme Court in May issued a ruling governing what waters fall under the full legal purview of the United States.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency last month issued new guidelines based on that, but officials at the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) remain in communication about jurisdictional matters.