Dam Safety and Waterway Management
Pennsylvania’s Integrated Ecological Services, Capacity Enhancement and Support Program (PIESCES)
The Department of Environmental Protection hereby announces the implementation of the Pennsylvania’s Integrated Ecological Services, Capacity Enhancement and Support Program (PIESCES). This program provides a mechanism by which the Department will assist permit applicants in meeting their compensatory mitigation requirements associated with Chapter 105 Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permits. The project will ease administrative and financial burdens where compensatory mitigation banks are not available and permittee responsible mitigation is not appropriate. The project furthers the goals of the Department to ensure that compensatory mitigation efforts are effective, productive, and beneficial for Pennsylvania’s aquatic resources.
The goal of the DEP waterways and wetlands protection programs is to ensure that the many functions and values provided by these aquatic resources related to water quality and quantity, wildlife habitat and public safety, are preserved. In order to meet that goal, regulatory programs require that non-beneficial impacts to aquatic resources are adequately compensated for as a result of federal or state permitting actions by providing replacement aquatic resources that provide similar aquatic resource functions or ecological services. Although seemingly insignificant on an individual basis, the cumulative impact of these aquatic resource functions can, over the long-term, result in major impairments to the environment, especially within the context of a specific watershed or locale. If waterway and wetland protection programs are to ensure future environmental quality, the replacement of these impacts to aquatic resource functions becomes a major concern.
Permit recipients, usually a business, municipality, individual, or state agency, assume the responsibility for providing replacement aquatic resource functions as a special condition of the permit. The goal of compensatory mitigation is to provide aquatic resources with the same or similar functions and ecological services which was lost.
Providing the replacement of aquatic resource functions requires careful planning, design, construction, monitoring, and often, new land acquisition. Numerous studies have shown that typical permittee responsible mitigation or permit by permit approaches do not provide adequate or commensurate aquatic resource functional replacement. The use of compensatory mitigation banking and in lieu projects such as Pennsylvania’s program can result in substantially more successful compensatory mitigation. Such programs have additional benefits beyond providing better compensatory mitigation including benefits such as:
- Reduced permit processing delays
- Reduced time and costs associated with site identification and acquisition
- Reduced costs for contracting, construction, and long-term monitoring
- Reduced permit liability by eliminating monitoring
The Department of Environmental Protection is keenly interested in developing a compensatory mitigation strategy that addresses the federal rules and is able to achieve the program’s goals while minimizing the regulatory burdens on permit applicants, especially those proposing minor projects in areas where private compensatory mitigation banking is not available.
In order to address these regulatory issues, the Department of Environmental Protection, in cooperation with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (the "Foundation"), has agreed to establish and manage a fund, titled the Pennsylvania’s Integrated Ecological Services, Capacity Enhancement and Support Program, to which Chapter 105 permit applicants for activities in aquatic resources can make a monetary contribution, in lieu of conducting permittee responsible mitigation. The Foundation was created by Congress in 1984 as a charitable and non-profit corporation. The purposes of the Foundation are (1) to encourage, accept, and administer private gifts of property for the benefit of, or in connection with, the activities and services of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and (2) to undertake and conduct such other activities as will further the conservation and management of the fish, wildlife and plant resources of the United States, its territories and its possessions, for present and future generations of Americans.