The North Carolina Ecosystem Enhancement Program, or EEP, is a division of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which provides mitigation credit to offset NC Department of Transportation impacts to streams and wetlands during highway projects such as road widening or highway bypass routes. The EEP also provides credits to land developers to offset impacts that occur as a result of residential and commercial developments.
Why are mitigation credits needed?
When wetlands and streams are impacted by development such as roads or culverts, mitigation credit is required by means of wetland, stream, and riparian buffer restoration, enhancement, or preservation to offset the loss of habitat and natural water resources.This method of compensation maintains the nation’s no-netlosspolicy of wetlands while allowing necessary development to continue. To provide the necessary credits, the EEP’s Full Delivery Program utilizes private companies to purchase conservation easements from private landowners and construct restoration projects on that land.
Where are mitigation credits needed?
Once or twice a year, the EEP requests proposals from private companies for mitigation sites in specific river basins across the state of North Carolina. The EEP evaluates current and planned impacts from the DOT and private developers and issues requests for proposals in specific targeted local watershed where the development or roadway projects are planned. Sites where streams have been straightened or moved, wetlands have been ditched or drained, livestock are not fenced out, or nutrients from surrounding agriculture are entering the water supply due to insufficient buffers are good places for restoration work to occur.
What is stream restoration?
Stream restoration uses “natural channel design” techniques to restore natural hydrologic, sediment transport, and habitat functions to a stream while accounting for the current condition of its watershed. This approach can be used to address a range of problems from stabilizing eroding stream banks to constructing new channels that restore a natural dimension, pattern, and profile to the stream system. Each project is designed to address the specific problems of that stream channel and its watershed while working within the constraints of the site.
What is wetland restoration?
Wetland restoration is the practice of restoring natural hydrologic and vegetation conditions to a wetland system. Restoring wetland hydrology generally focuses on decreasing drainage from the site and increasing surface water storage. These goals can be accomplished through a number of techniques such as removing drain pipes, filling drainage ditches, restoring surface roughness, site grading, and raising associated stream bed elevations. Sites are planted with native plant species and are managed for the first five years to “jump start” the desired community and remove unwanted invasive plants.
What is buffer restoration?
Quite simply, buffer restoration involves the planting of hardwood trees such as oak, chestnut, sycamore, river birch, or ash along a 50-foot buffer on one or both sides of a stream or wetland. Streams must be stable and void of dense trees prior to buffer restoration.
What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement must be placed on the stream corridor, wetland, or buffer area to protect the work. The easement lasts in perpetuity, but the property owner retains the underlying deed and still has access and enjoyment rights. The easement area can be used for hunting and fishing, but not for agriculture or timber harvesting. The design firm will need to access the easement periodically to conduct monitoring surveys but the easement does not allow the general public to access the site.