Manatee County commissioners recently voted to establish a second wetland mitigation bank in Manatee County.
ManaSota-88 is, and always has been, opposed to the concept of wetlands mitigation banking. Mitigation banking is inconsistent with and contrary to the statutory duty of the Department of Environmental Protection and the Water Management Districts.
Wetland mitigation banks do not prevent adverse cumulative impacts within wetland systems such as specific creek, riverine, and marsh basins, or Outstanding Florida Waters.
Current permitting requirements for mitigation banks are based on an unsubstantiated assumption that wetland mitigation banks will minimize the mitigation uncertainty associated with traditional mitigation and provide greater assurance of ecological success. ManaSota-88 is unaware of any reliable data that shows that mitigation banks will "minimize mitigation uncertainty." Large wetland creation attempts have failure rates like those of smaller wetland creation attempts. The quality of wetlands in mitigation banks tends to be poor. Wetlands in mitigation banks fall short of their goal, which is to replace the functions and values of a destroyed wetland. Mitigation banks do not replace natural wetlands.
The creation of wetlands doesn't work. It takes nature hundreds of years to create these delicate ecosystems. To expect that with the knowledge and skills of engineers, we can go out and build one and have it function as a naturally occurring wetland is not going to happen.
What is happening is that the Manatee County Commission is currently focused on achieving one objective: granting developers a permit to build. Wetland mitigation banking enables the developer to write a check and "start the bulldozer”. The value of the land destroyed is not factored into "the deal". Developers get to wipe out wetlands in high-priced land markets and mitigate wetlands to areas that are not under developmental pressures.
Mitigation banking is unproven, and a net loss of habitat occurs. Moving wetlands to areas that do not already have naturally occurring wetlands will have reduced value since there was not a need for the newly created wetland to exist at that location. Duplication of the functions and values of the destroyed wetland will not occur because the land banking area will not contain the same geological and hydrological features as the naturally occurring one.
Performance standards that adequately identify "successful" mitigation of a wetland, when all factors are considered, have not been developed by any federal, state, or local governmental agency. Until performance standards and criteria are implemented that identify successful recreation of wetlands, mitigation banking is bound to be a dismal failure.
Long-term successful duplication of water regimes, recharge, and discharge to underlying aquifers, soil profiles, food webs, and food chains of newly created wetlands, has not been supported by current scientific research. The evolution of a complex food web, as well as the plant succession associated with such ecosystems, may take years to occur, or may never occur. The plant and animal diversity within a natural system may be impossible to replicate.
Wetland Mitigation Banking encourages the destruction of existing wetlands of high environmental functions and values. It encourages wetlands to be compromised of their environmental values or functions prior to the submission of development plans for review and approval.
Given the failure of wetland mitigation sites, ManaSota-88 has no reason to believe that Manatee County’s mitigation banks will ever be successful.
Glenn Compton is the Chairman of ManaSota 88, a non-profit organization that has spent over 30 years fighting to protect the environment of Manatee and Sarasota counties.
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