Each year thousands of property owners undertake projects that affect the nation’s aquatic resources. Proposed projects that are determined to impact jurisdictional waters are first subject to review under the Clean Water Act (CWA). The objective of the CWA is “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters.” Toward achievement of this goal, the CWA prohibits the discharge of dredged or fill material into wetlands, streams, and other waters of the United States unless a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) under CWA Section 404 authorizes such a discharge.
The Corps of Engineers reviews these projects to ensure environmental impacts to aquatic resources are avoided or minimized as much as possible. Consistent with the administration’s goal of “no net loss of wetlands” a Corps permit may require a property owner to restore, establish, enhance or preserve other aquatic resources in order to replace those impacted by the proposed project. This compensatory mitigation process seeks to replace the loss of existing aquatic resource functions and area. The Corps is responsible for determining the appropriate form and amount of compensatory mitigation required. Methods of providing compensatory mitigation include aquatic resource restoration, establishment, enhancement, and in certain circumstances, preservation.