I attended Wednesday’s Wetland Conservation Act Policy Development Stakeholder Meeting hosted by BWSR. The purpose for the meeting was to begin discussions with “stakeholders” concerning proposed rule changes to reconcile WCA rules with statute changes from 2011, 2012 and 2015.
Discussions included potential new actions eligible for credit, designating and implementing new “High Priority Areas” for wetland mitigation, and of particular concern to many of the subscribers to this newsletter, the new In-Lieu Fee (ILF) program being proposed by BWSR.
If you own an existing wetland bank, are establishing a wetland bank, or if you are a consultant who works in wetland banking; the proposed ILF program should be something of serious concern to you.
BWSR’s In Lieu Fee Fact Sheet from October of 2014 states:
“An ILF could potentially have benefits to all of Minnesota, but is particularly relevant to the northeastern part of the state. The challenge of obtaining quality compensatory mitigation in NE Minnesota is well-known and documented in recent agency reports. The relative lack of available opportunities under current rules/policies, combined with the challenges to applicants of effectively implementing a watershed approach, warrant an alternative mechanism for obtaining mitigation which a properly structured ILF can provide.”
The fact is, within the last year alone 500 acres of privately owned credits were deposited in BSA 5, and another 6000+ (yes, thousand) acres of credits are approved and pending deposit between BSAs 1 and 5, demonstrating that BWSR’s concern is unwarranted. The northeastern part of the state obviously has ample opportunity for “obtaining quality compensatory mitigation”.
While BWSR has alluded to the use of the ILF program mainly in the northeastern part of the state, in Wednesday’s meeting it was stated that they “haven’t made that decision yet”. In addition, when asked if ILF credits will be more expensive than private bank credits, their answer was that pricing of the ILF credits would be “not much different” than that of private banks. Upon its approval and funding, ILF could very well be implemented statewide, competing directly with all present and future bank account owners.
Minnesota has quite arguably the most robust banking system in the country with well over 100 currently active mitigation banks. The question we asked in our April 2015 blog still resonates…
“Why is an ILF program needed in Minnesota?”
A second stakeholder meeting is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, February 24th at Cabela’s in Rogers (time TBD). If you are a concerned banker or consultant, NOW is the time to express your opinions on BWSR’s ILF proposal.