Improved WOTUS Rule Should Bring Stability, Panelist Says

messerlySpeakers at the Environmental Law Institute’s National Wetlands Awards panel discussion May 17 know there are challenges ahead as the Trump administration launches its efforts to fix the flawed Obama-era “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, including how it may affect wetlands mitigation banks.

NAHB member Vince Messerly, president of the Stream and Wetlands Foundation and a 25-year veteran of the mitigation banking industry, was one of the industry experts who spoke.

Mitigation banks are sites where wetlands have been established or restored to replace other wetlands being developed to build homes, businesses and infrastructure. Each bank provides credits that developers, state agencies and others can purchase to satisfy compensatory mitigation requirements.

While some mitigation bankers fear that a rollback of the WOTUS rule will hurt the mitigation industry – that is, if fewer waters are federally regulated, fewer features will require mitigation – Messerly brought a unique perspective to the panel.

“The real concern we have with the delay of an update to the WOTUS definition is that the uncertainties associated with the existing regulations will continue to cause unnecessary confusion for permit applicants,” said Messerly.  “Hopefully, a reasonable WOTUS definition can be achieved soon to help improve predictability for permit applicants and the regulatory agencies.”

Messerly noted that home builders and the Stream and Wetlands Foundation share a common vision with the Environmental Law Institute – one of a healthy environment, prosperous economies and vibrant communities founded in the rule of law.

The nonprofit foundation was established by the Ohio Home Builders Association in 1992 to create a pool of available credits for builders and developers whose impacts to certain waters require compensatory mitigation under the Clean Water Act.

“Without bank credits, many projects either can’t proceed or face significant permitting delay,” said Messerly, who manages six banks across Ohio and North Carolina. “Working with builders and the development community, our foundation helps protect valuable ecosystems and allows for construction of much needed safe, affordable homes.”

For more information about mitigation banks, contact Owen McDonough.

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