CONCORD, Mass. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District and the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG) signed an In-Lieu Fee agreement on May 23, 2014 that now provides an alternative form of compensatory mitigation to those seeking permits who are required to compensate for their project’s impacts to aquatic resources, wetlands and waters of the U.S. in the state of Massachusetts.
“The program purposefully advances the protection of aquatic resources in Massachusetts. It provides individuals and firms seeking a Corps permit an alternative form of compensatory mitigation,” said Col. Charles Samaris, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District commander. “Protecting the environment is one of our core missions and part of the Chief of Engineers' campaign plan. This In-Lieu Fee agreement contributes to accomplishing that mission."
“We are pleased that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved DFG to sponsor this state-wide program that will result in protection and restoration of critical habitats, as well as the flexibility for developers in obtaining permits from the Corps,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan, Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The concept of an In-lieu Fee Program (ILFP) is to allow Corps permittees, in compensation for their project’s unavoidable impacts to waters of the U.S., including wetlands, to make a monetary payment in-lieu of or in addition to doing the required mitigation themselves. The eligible projects are activities authorized under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and/or Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act. These in-lieu fee payments are made to the ILFP and administered by DFG. As the ILFP sponsor, DFG, in turn, assumes legal responsibility for implementing the required mitigation, which it will accomplish by aggregating and expending the in-lieu funds received from Corps permittees for mitigation projects.
By aggregating the fees from multiple permitted impacts, the ILF program can use the fees to develop larger compensatory projects that offer greater ecological benefits than smaller permittee-conducted mitigation. This ability to aggregate ILFP funds will facilitate mitigation projects that better contribute to watershed level conservation goals. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and New York already have Corps-approved ILFPs.
“This program will improve our efforts to protect and restore natural habitats throughout the Commonwealth, including coastal waters,” said Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin. “We have well-established programs in land acquisition and aquatic habitat restoration that will use funds collected through the In-Lieu Fee Program to protect and enhance ecologically important aquatic resources and wildlife habitat.”
Prior to this agreement, from June 2008 to June 2013, DFG’s Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) served as the program sponsor for an ILFP established to provide mitigation for impacts to marine resources and Essential Fish Habitat in Massachusetts. Mitigation was limited to projects that altered less than one acre of aquatic resource and met the criteria for coverage under the Corps’ General Permit (GP) in Massachusetts.
The Department of Fish and Game’s three divisions — the Division of Marine Fisheries, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Division of Ecological Restoration — will implement mitigation projects that permanently protect or restore aquatic resources and upland buffers. Examples of projects include acquisition of threatened fisheries and wildlife habitats; dam removals that improve passage for fish such as river herring, shad, and eels; phragmites control in wetland habitats; and eel grass restoration in coastal waters.
For more information on In Lieu Fee program in New England visit the website at: http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/Mitigation/InLieuFeePrograms.aspx.