The federal Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters of the United States, which includes wetlands. Yet there are times when the public good and economic growth requires that those waters be affected, and the need arises to offset such impacts – a concept designed to ensure no net loss of wetlands or important waters within a certain geographic area.
That’s where the Tennessee Mitigation Fund (TMF), a program administered by the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, comes in.
When impacts are justified, federal guidelines specify a clear sequence of priorities for mitigation with the preference for mitigation to be located near the impact site(s). The intent is to maintain the physical, chemical and biological integrity of aquatic resources within the same watershed or regional area.
Among different solutions for mitigating unavoidable impacts to valuable wetlands, In‐lieu Fee (ILF) programs – typically through a non‐profit as a sponsor –collect fees on behalf of the public to pool together and fund the repair and maintenance of restored wetland mitigation sites. TMF, by rule, is provided project and program oversight from an Interagency Review Team (IRT). The IRT is composed of representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (both districts), EPA, TWRA, USFWS, TDEC and TVA. The function of the IRT is to define conditions under which in‐lieu‐fees may be used, to review and approve individual mitigation projects, and to provide annual reviews of the completed and on‐going mitigation projects.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Nashville & Memphis Districts) & The Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEC) have granted approval for the establishment of Tennessee’s first wetlands mitigation ILF program under PN‐ 12‐07, effective April 2012.
TMF OPERATING COVERAGE
TMF operates in all Tennessee service areas and watersheds. Advanced credits are available for purchase in each of those watersheds.
PROCESS OF USING TMF FOR MITIGATION
- Before an applicant seeks permit approval from regulatory authorities, the applicants should contact TMF by submitting an Advance Credit Availability Request to determine the availability of advanced credits for sale in the watershed in question, and to reach a tentative agreement on the purchase of needed advanced credits from TMF.
- Once the applicant receives the Tentative Sale of Credits Statement then TMF can be listed in the “Mitigation Plan” on the permit application as the solution to fulfill the project’s compensatory mitigation needs.
- Upon receiving permit approval by the regulatory authorities, the formal sales transaction of the advanced credit will take place and TMF assumes all legal responsibility for mitigating the unavoidable impact.
- TMF will use the funds generated from the sale of advanced credits to develop permanently functioning wetlands to offset the project’s unavoidable impacts.
If you have mitigation needs that affect waters within Tennessee’s boundaries, the Tennessee Mitigation Fund could be the right solution. TMF offers sound experience and natural resources management expertise in providing applicants a timely and financially responsible solution. Call program manager Chris Roberts at 615-353-1133 for more information.