Wetland mitigation bank opens in North Dakota

Staff Report

DEVILS LAKE - A wetland mitigation bank developed with seed money from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is now open for business in North Dakota.

“The bank could save you money and time if you want to convert an existing wetland,” says Jennifer Heglund, NRCS assistant state conservationist. “Plus, it would keep you eligible for farm program benefits.”

The bank is called the North Dakota Wetland Exchange. It has two sites near Mekinock and Edmore. Restored wetlands on the sites are available to mitigate the conversion of wetlands in eastern North Dakota.

“It’s a great opportunity,” says David Patrick, owner of Dakota Wetland Partners, LLC, which manages the mitigation banks. “The financial and operational benefits to landowners are extraordinary and provide new opportunities to improve the bottom line for many hard-working families.”

A  new mitigation bank is open in North Dakota to help protect wetlands.

What’s a bank?

A mitigation bank is a site or sites where wetlands have been restored, created or enhanced and a legal system to sell credits in the bank has been established.

“The purpose of a bank is to help landowners stay in compliance with the Farm Bill,” Heglund says. Swampbuster provisions in the Farm Bill prohibit draining, ditching, dredging or otherwise altering a wetland’s ability to hold water.

Lawmakers included a mitigation provision in the Farm Bill, allowing landowners to create new or enhance existing wetlands on their own property or on another site in the same watershed to offset wetland conversions and remain in compliance with the law. Congressional intent was to achieve no net loss of wetlands in the U.S.

Cost and benefits

The price of credits in the North Dakota Wetland Exchange varies depending on several factors, including the location and number of credits purchased.  Ag credits typically cost $10,000-$12,000 each. A credit is roughly equivalent to one acre. If you want to convert a 1-acre wetland, you need to restore or enhance a wetland of the same or greater size.

It may sound as if the price of credits is more than what most ag land in North Dakota is worth. But if you were to mitigate a wetland yourself you would have to pay design, engineering, construction, inspection and other fees. Also, NRCS has to certify that the new wetland will have the same functions as the one it replaces, will provide the same or more value to the environment and wildlife as the old one continued and was built to assure continued success.

From its inception to completion, mitigating a wetland yourself may take several years and cost many thousands of dollars.

In a mitigation bank, the new wetlands have already been restored and certified, easements have already been secured and maintenance contracts have been established.

Buying credits in a wetland bank can be done in days.

“It really streamlines the mitigation,” Heglund says.

What’s the future?

The North Dakota Wetland Exchange is selling credits now, Patrick says.

Dakota Wetland Partners also is applying for grants to develop additional mitigation banks in other watershed areas in the state.

“We hope to have more mitigation sites ready soon,” he says.

For more information

For more information about wetland mitigation, contact your local NRCS office.

For more information about the Dakota Wetland Exchange, see wetlandexchange.com or contact Patrick at david@dakotawetlandpartners.com or 605-809-7251.