Ecological Restoration Practice Addresses Stream and Wetland Needs
The Ecological Restoration Practice (ERP) comprises a diverse group of engineers, biologists/ecologists and specialized CAD technicians. The engineers have backgrounds that include hydraulic design and modeling, structural engineering and environmental engineering. The biologists/ecologists, have backgrounds in botany, soils, fluvial dynamics, hydrology/hydraulics, permitting processes and technical documentation.
Within HDR, more than 35 engineers and biologists/ecologists have extensive training in fluvial process analysis and restoration. As a whole, we have completed more than 150 stream and wetland mitigation projects, designed more than 410,000 linear feet of restored/enhanced streams using principles founded on Natural Channel Design techniques, and managed 2,000 acres of wetlands.
The ERP’s primary focus has been assisting clients in navigating the regulatory hurdles of mitigating jurisdictional impacts associated with Section 404 and, to a lesser extent, Section 10 of the Clean Water Act permits.
As a background, Section 404 regulates the discharge of dredged or fill material into Waters of the United States (WOUS), for example, streams and wetlands. Section 404 requires permit approval, as processed and reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), of dredge or fill activities in WOUS prior to commencement of work. Many of these permits require mitigating unavoidable adverse impacts to aquatic function due to the effects of dredge or fill on WOUS.
Examples of permit applications that may require mitigation of impacts to WOUS include roadway construction, industrial site development, reservoir construction, mining operations and rail expansion, to name a few.
In 2008, USACE and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued regulations titled Compensatory Mitigation for Losses of Aquatic Resources, more commonly referred to as The 2008 Mitigation Rule (The Rule).
As with any regulation administered by an agency with multiple districts (e.g., USACE), The Rule is rarely interpreted and administered uniformly across the nation, sometimes making work from district to district challenging. To that end, we have completed mitigation designs within numerous Corps districts and these projects have included every type of mitigation site detailed in The Rule (mitigation banks, in-lieu fee programs, on-site permittee responsible mitigation, and off-site permittee responsible mitigation).
Working in various districts has reinforced the fact that we must approach every job with an open mind and be able to work with a diverse group of regulators who may have contrasting goals and objectives from regulators in other districts.