LOS ANGELES, Calif. - Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission finalized an agreement July 16 for a new In-Lieu Fee program that authorizes the sale of mitigation credits to third party applicants in order to satisfy their Clean Water Act permit requirements.
The overall plan area affected by the agreement covers more than one million acres and is home to 27 federally listed threatened and endangered species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado River Regional Water Quality Control Board and California Department of Fish and Wildlife participated in the development of the agreement. Mitigation will occur in about 700,000 acres within that area.
“This is an example of the benefits of interagency cooperation,” said Col. Kim Colloton, commander of the Corps’ LA District, who signed the document. “It will help ensure the environmental benefits and ecological conservation that Section 404 of the Clean Water Act was intended to provide.”
In-Lieu Fee programs are developed on a watershed basis and allow applicants to mitigate for the environmental impacts of their projects. Applicants accomplish this by paying for credits to mitigation projects to develop and maintain wetlands and waters of the US.
Jim Sullivan is the GIS program director for the Coachella Valley Association of Governments, which developed the agreement for the Conservation Commission.
“From a planner’s perspective, this is very important,” Sullivan said. “The multi-species and habitat conservation plan and the in-lieu fee program, are much more efficient and beneficial than the way piecemeal mitigation was done previously.”
There are environmental and management benefits to employing in-lieu fee mitigation, according to Sullivan.
“Instead of creating and monitoring individual isolated sites, larger regional plans tend to make the entire process more efficient,” Sullivan said. “They provide more meaningful mitigation, and make it easier to manage and track the effort. Mitigating on a regional context allows more efficient regulation and requires less time on the part of the Corps, the applicant and the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission. It is much more efficient than how this work is traditionally done. We didn’t start like this, but we’re maturing. This is a big step.”
“This is the beginning of a new era for Corps mitigation,” said Therese Bradford, chief of the Corps District’s South Coast Regulatory Branch. “Building upon and strengthening existing plans is an efficient and effective use of land and money.”