CONCORD, Mass. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District and the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG) recently signed an In-Lieu Fee program agreement 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 purpose of the ILF program is to address a need in Massachusetts for an alternative to Corps permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation (whether on-site or off) that will result in a broad range of enhanced coastal and inland aquatic resource restoration, preservation, establishment, and enhancement projects across the state. The goal is to substantially increase the scope and quality of restoration and protection of aquatic resources and their related buffers and uplands.
Compensatory mitigation occurs in circumstances where a permittee is required to compensate for the functions and values of aquatic resources lost as a result of the permit authorization after all efforts are made to avoid and minimize impacts. In-Lieu Fee is an option available to the permit applicant instead of completing permittee-responsible mitigation. Use of the In-Lieu Fee program is contingent upon Corps of Engineers approval.
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. For more information on the In-Lieu Fee program in New England visit the website at: http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/Mitigation/InLieuFeePrograms.aspx.
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.
Under this new agreement, the Department of Fish and Game 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.
The public notice with more information on this In-Lieu Fee program agreement can be viewed on the Corps website at http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Missions/PublicNotices.aspx.
For additional information on this In-Lieu Fee program (File # NAE-2007-2926) contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Regulatory Division (ATTN: Ruth Ladd), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751 or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone to 978-318-8818.