The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

July 23, 2013

N.C. Ecosystem Enhancement Program celebrates a decade of conserving and restoring streams and wetlands


Contributed

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 — RALEIGH – July marks 10 years of operation for the N.C. Ecosystem Enhancement Program, a state Department of Environment and Natural Resources initiative that restores and protects wetlands and waterways for future generations while offsetting unavoidable environmental impacts from economic development.

 

On July 22, 2003, DENR, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the N.C. Department of Transportation signed a three-party memorandum of agreement that established the program. Through more than 580 projects in North Carolina, EEP has conserved, restored or enhanced more than 640 miles of streams, nearly 30,000 acres of wetlands and about 700 acres of buffers.

 

“The Ecosystem Enhancement Program’s core mission is a public-private partnership to allow economic development projects to continue while enhancing the environment,” said John E. Skvarla, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“When executing that mission, the program has been very successful at outsourcing taxpayer risk while advancing public priorities.”

 

EEP offers four mitigation programs to help private and public entities comply with state and federal compensatory mitigation for streams, wetlands, riparian buffers and nutrient offsets. EEP uses receipts from the programs to restore streams and wetlands where the need is greatest by working with state and local partners, including willing landowners. The N.C. Department of Transportation and other developers voluntarily use EEP to move projects forward in a timely and affordable manner.

 

From its inception, the main goal of the program has been to ensure that state transportation projects are not delayed due to environmental mitigation requirements. EEP is considered a national model for stream and wetlands mitigation, earning recognition in 2005 and 2007 as one of the top 50 new innovative government programs in the nation by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and a prestigious award in 2005 for local watershed planning from the National Association of Environmental Professionals. EEP also was named Natural Resources Agency of the Year in the 2006 Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards. EEP (http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/eep/home) continues to achieve its mission to restore and protect North Carolina’s natural resources for future generations while supporting responsible economic development.

 

“EEP has racked up some impressive numbers in its first decade,” said Michael Ellison, the program’s director. “But the most important is that zero DOT projects have faced delays because of a lack of mitigation since 2003. EEP has helped to move forward over $14 billion in transportation projects.”

 

EEP BY THE NUMBERS

·         1.57 million lbs. of nutrients removed

·         More than 4,000 In-Lieu Fee Customers Served

·         100 percent customer-satisfaction rate

·         Nearly $500 million in contract awards outsourced to the private sector

·         50,100-plus acres of natural areas preserved for future generations

·         And zero NCDOT projects delayed because of lack of mitigation since 2003, helping to move forward over $14 billion in transportation projects