National Association of Counties
Award to Wayne County for the Wetlands Preservation Fund
The National Association of Counties awarded the Achievement Award
for 2000 to Wayne County for its Wetland Preservation Fund. The
award said in part "In recognition of an innovative program that
contributes to and enhances county government in the United States."
The following is the write-up for the award.
WAYNE COUNTY, MICHIGAN
WETLANDS PRESERVATION FUND
WETLAND MITIGATION BANKING PROGRAM
- Abstract of the Program
Wayne County has created an innovative wetland program known as
the Wetland Preservation Fund. This merges environmental restoration,
wetland protection, passive recreation, outdoor education, and
public participation while encouraging economic development. This
program will facilitate a streamlined wetland permitting process
within the County by providing wetland replacement at locations
that were selected for their value to water quality, fish and
wildlife, and restoration of the Rouge River. Wetlands created
to date have been valuable outdoor classrooms, wildlife habitat,
and filters of storm water runoff.
- The Problem and Need for the Program
A common issue addressed by county government is balancing the
importance of economic development with management and protection
of natural resources. One common tool used to balance some of
the adverse impacts of development is wetland mitigation. Wetland
mitigation is the replacement of a wetland that is filled-in for
development with a new wetland in another location. While wetland
mitigation has been successful in many counties, studies have
shown that some mitigation projects have been sited in inappropriate
areas and/or have failed to develop into successful, thriving
wetlands. Furthermore, the wetland permitting process in some
states is lengthy, hindering implementation of valuable development
Wayne County has also made a commitment to restore the environmental
quality of the Rouge River, a major urban river within the County.
That commitment includes restoration of the river plus significant
enhancements to fish and wildlife habitat. Successful re-introduction
of fish and wildlife populations requires successful restoration
of wetlands and riparian areas that once were common in the Rouge
watershed. The County has identified areas along the riparian
corridor of the Rouge River where the habitat should be restored
for the use of fish and wildlife. These sites also provide opportunities
for outdoor education, passive recreation, and water quality protection.
The problem in the County was that there was a disjointed effort
to protect wetlands, restore the river and facilitate economic
development. Wetland fill permits were being issued requiring
wetland replacement at locations that were not optimum for restoration
of the river. In addition, outdoor education and passive recreation
were rarely considered when considering wetland replacement. Further,
the permit process for allowing wetland mitigation was cumbersome
and lengthy, hindering economic development. There was a need
for a program that streamlined the approval process for economic
development, while directing resources for mitigation to areas
of the County where maximum benefits for outdoor education, passive
recreation, fish and wildlife habitat, and water quality improvement
could be obtained.
- Description of the Program
On June 4, 1998, the Wayne County Commission approved the recommendation
of the County Executive to create the Wetlands Preservation Fund
by ordinance. The stated purpose of the ordinance is to provide
for the establishment of a County Wetland Mitigation Fund and
Bank that will protect and enhance the wetland resources of the
County while simultaneously enhancing economic development. The
ordinance cited the need to facilitate public and private beneficial
land development by providing a streamlined approach to off-site
wetland mitigation plus the creation, restoration, preservation
and enhancement of all wetlands within the county for the protection
and encouragement of wildlife, water conservation, water purification
and passive recreation.
The wetland mitigation program at the County will function as
an orderly replacement of the case by case wetland replacement
program. Under the initial phase of this program the County will
construct wetlands at locations in the floodplain of the Rouge
River. These wetlands will provide for the stated goals of the
program, namely, the restoration of fish and wildlife habitat,
outdoor education, passive recreation, and restoration of the
Rouge River. These new wetlands represent credits that the Fund
may sell to applicants who may be required to replace wetlands.
Once the new wetlands are established, applicants for wetland
permits to the State of Michigan may reference the new wetlands
in their application. If the State of Michigan approves the permit
application to fill wetlands, then the applicant finalizes the
purchase of wetland credits from the County.
One of the County's first goals was to create a Wetland Bank where
developers could go to "purchase" the wetland mitigation they
required in the form of credits. A Wetlands Preservation Fund
Executive Board was created to run the program and hold regular
meetings. The Board consists of the County Department Directors
involved in wetland issues plus the Chairman of the County Commission
Committee charged with wetland issues. These meetings are open
to the public and provide a forum for environmental community,
development community and general public participation. As part
of the creation of the Bank, the County, by its outside counsel,
Seyburn, Kahn, and Ginn, entered into negotiations with the Michigan
Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the state wetland
permitting authority, to develop the first Wetland Banking Agreement
in the State of Michigan. Structuring the agreement was difficult
because issues such as merging federal regulations with state
rules, selecting viable wetland replacement sites, establishing
meaningful performance standards and providing reasonable assurance
that the program will succeed had to be considered. On October
20, 1999 the Wetland Banking Agreement was signed by MDEQ.
The Board initially identified land in eight (8) locations where
approximately 18 acres of wetlands can be constructed and included
in the Bank. The locations are all within the flood plain of the
Rouge River and adjacent to a 17.5-mile parkway that provides
access to a variety of recreational opportunities. An effort was
made to select areas of flood plain that are currently marginal
for recreation and to construct a wetland on a portion of that
site while reshaping the remaining portion into desirable recreational
land. The sites are individually relatively small to serve as
test sites to permit the Board an opportunity to gauge the costs
of construction and the marketability of the wetland credits.
The net proceeds from sale of wetland credits earned by the construction
of the new wetlands must be used to acquire new recreational property.
The Board has retained environmental engineers to design the construction
of the first of four wetland sites. The guidance given to the
engineers, through Tilton & Associates, Inc. as wetlands consultant
to the Board, was that the new wetland design must include innovative
techniques or features. The new wetlands are meant to provide
wildlife observation features, encourage a diversity of fish,
wildlife and plant species (giving special attention to native
species that are not present at the site). In addition, the wetlands
should be living classrooms (biology, environmental sciences,
chemistry, physics, creative writing, art, etc.) in conjunction
with the local school systems. The final design of the initial
wetland sites is complete and the County plans on advertising
for construction bids in mid February 2000.
- Use of Technology
The following technology were used to develop the Wetland Preservation
Program: GIS, GPS, CAD, database software, and Web sites.
- The Cost of the Program
The following costs were incurred by the County to establish the
|Wetland Preservation Fund Ordinance Development
|Wetland Preservation Fund Administration
|Wetland Site Selection and Planning
The costs referenced above do not include expanding the program
to include additional wetland areas.
The estimated costs for wetland engineering and construction are
expected to be $60,000 per acre. Monitoring and maintenance are
expected to be $2,000 per acre per year.
- The Results and Success of the Program
The results of the project can be measured at several levels.
The very active public participation process during goal setting,
selection of the sites, and designing the new wetlands enhanced
communication between residents, State officials and County officials.
Local educators from one high school participated in the design
of wetlands to enhance the utility of the wetland as an outdoor
classroom. One new wetland site in the program will be used by
as many as 20 different teachers as a classroom for approximately
10 different courses. Resource agencies have been impressed with
the process for selecting sites and are excited by the potential
for restoring environmental quality along the river. Wetlands
will now be replaced at locations where maximum benefits to water
quality, flood protection, fish and wildlife habitat, passive
recreation, and outdoor classrooms can be achieved.
The benefits of the program are multiple. First, it is an example
of how the state government, local government and citizens can
work constructively towards a common goal. Second, it allows the
restoration and conservation of important natural resources. Third,
it optimizes the important benefits of wetlands by putting together
a cohesive program for creating productive wetlands rather then
creating wetlands in an uncoordinated, piecemeal fashion. Fourth,
it is an example how once a program is created, it assures that
citizens continue to be involved. Finally, both young and old
citizens are encouraged to visit new wetlands in parks and learn
about the important role wetlands play and benefits they provide
to our society.
Monitoring of wetlands created under the program have shown a
number of significant benefits to the environment. Water quality
has improved significantly. Wetlands are designed to remove 60-70%
of sediment and pollutant. Wildlife and fish have increased in
the wetland areas. As many as 50 species of birds and mammals
have been reported in the area. Fish spawning has been reported
and wading birds, which feed on fish species, have been observed
feeding at the new wetland sites.
- Worthiness of an Award
- Offers a new service to all ages and consolidates separate
programs into a new initiative;
- Improves the administration of economic development and
- Assures citizens an opportunity to participate in the design
and location of wetlands and administration of the program;
- Promotes intergovernmental cooperation between state wetland
protection programs and county environmental protection programs.
The program has increased cooperation between state and county
environmental programs and has directed resources dedicated to
habitat creation to areas of the County where maximum benefits
have been achieved.
Last Updated: 8/27/01
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The Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration
Project is funded, in part, by the United States Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) Grants #XP995743-01, -02, -03, -04, -05, -06, -07 and