The Department has developed a program in cooperation with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) a non-profit conservation organization created by congress in 1984, to among its other missions, facilitate the creation and restoration of environmentally productive wetlands in Pennsylvania. The NFWF has agreed to establish and manage the Pennsylvania Wetlands Replacement Project, a fund to which Chapter 105 permit applicants can make a monetary contribution, in lieu of creating wetlands. The Wetland Replacement Project provides a mechanism by which the Department will assist permit applicants in meeting the wetland replacement/mitigation requirements associated with chapter 105 Water Obstruction and Encroachment Permits.
The Pennsylvania Wetland Replacement Project does not automatically allow for a monetary contribution in lieu of replacing wetlands. Permit applicants must continue to provide sound alternative analyses, demonstrate avoidance, and minimize impacts in accordance with existing regulatory requirements contained in 25 Pa. Code Chapter 105. If sufficient on-site area is available and suitable for replacement, and provides environmental benefits, on-site wetland replacement will be required. The Department has the discretion to approve or deny the use of the fund as appropriate wetland mitigation and replacement for any permit action. The Department has established an upper limit of .50 acre for eligibility to participate in the fund. Under special circumstances and in consultation with Federal and state resource agencies exceptions to the .50 acre upper limit may be considered.
All monies contributed to the Pennsylvania Wetland Replacement Project will be released at the direction of the Department to meet the goals and objectives of the wetlands protection program which follow:
- Maintain the Wetland Resource Base, Values, and Functions
- Maintain and Improve Water Quality
- Create Wetland Dependent Wildlife Habitat
- Protect and Restore Stream Regimes and Riparian Corridors
The fund will be used to support projects which link volunteer landowners with public and private funds to restore or create wetlands and provide riparian zone rehabilitation and protection on a large scale thereby minimizing construction costs and maximizing environmental benefit. Project sponsors are not limited to any specific public or private agencies and can include County Conservation Districts, municipal governments, resource conservation and development agencies, sportsmen's groups, conservancies, and private landowners. Because wetlands created using funds from the Pennsylvania Wetland Replacement Project are for permit mitigation, restored wetlands will be considered jurisdictional wetlands subject to Federal and state regulations (Section 404 Clean Water Act and Chapter 105 Dam Safety and Encroachment Act).
For projects to qualify for funding under the Pennsylvania Wetland Replacement Project the Department will use the following guidelines -
- Projects must result in the actual construction and implementation of a restoration project
- Landowner cooperation must be secured
- Generally, the fund will not be used for land acquisition
- Projects will have measurable goals and objectives
- The projects will include an effective monitoring and evaluation plan
- Projects should provide permanent protection from development through conservation easements or other land use control agreements
- Projects should have a high benefit/cost ratio
- Projects that partner willing landowners with other public or private funds are desireable
First priority projects are wetland restorations; however, when funds are available stream riparian zone rehabilitation and protection projects will be considered. In addition, the Department will give due consideration to other site specific aspects or benefits of a project which may not be addressed in these guidelines. The Department will entertain proposals as they are received. Funds will be released by the NFWF at the direction of the Department for all approved projects.