33 CFR 332.8 - Mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs.

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§ 332.8 Mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs.
(a) General considerations.
(1) All mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs must have an approved instrument signed by the sponsor and the district engineer prior to being used to provide compensatory mitigation for DA permits.
(2) To the maximum extent practicable, mitigation banks and in-lieu fee project sites must be planned and designed to be self-sustaining over time, but some active management and maintenance may be required to ensure their long-term viability and sustainability. Examples of acceptable management activities include maintaining fire-dependent habitat communities in the absence of natural fire and controlling invasive exotic plant species.
(3) All mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs must comply with the standards in this part, if they are to be used to provide compensatory mitigation for activities authorized by DA permits, regardless of whether they are sited on public or private lands and whether the sponsor is a governmental or private entity.
(b) Interagency Review Team.
(1) The district engineer will establish an Interagency Review Team (IRT) to review documentation for the establishment and management of mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs. The district engineer or his designated representative serves as Chair of the IRT. In cases where a mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program is proposed to satisfy the requirements of another federal, tribal, state, or local program, in addition to compensatory mitigation requirements of DA permits, it may be appropriate for the administering agency to serve as co-Chair of the IRT.
(2) In addition to the Corps, representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Fisheries, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and other federal agencies, as appropriate, may participate in the IRT. The IRT may also include representatives from tribal, state, and local regulatory and resource agencies, where such agencies have authorities and/or mandates directly affecting, or affected by, the establishment, operation, or use of the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program. The district engineer will seek to include all public agencies with a substantive interest in the establishment of the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program on the IRT, but retains final authority over its composition.
(3) The primary role of the IRT is to facilitate the establishment of mitigation banks or in-lieu fee programs through the development of mitigation banking or in-lieu fee program instruments. The IRT will review the prospectus, instrument, and other appropriate documents and provide comments to the district engineer. The district engineer and the IRT should use a watershed approach to the extent practicable in reviewing proposed mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs. Members of the IRT may also sign the instrument, if they so choose. By signing the instrument, the IRT members indicate their agreement with the terms of the instrument. As an alternative, a member of the IRT may submit a letter expressing concurrence with the instrument. The IRT will also advise the district engineer in assessing monitoring reports, recommending remedial or adaptive management measures, approving credit releases, and approving modifications to an instrument. In order to ensure timely processing of instruments and other documentation, comments from IRT members must be received by the district engineer within the time limits specified in this section. Comments received after these deadlines will only be considered at the discretion of the district engineer to the extent that doing so does not jeopardize the deadlines for district engineer action.
(4) The district engineer will give full consideration to any timely comments and advice of the IRT. The district engineer alone retains final authority for approval of the instrument in cases where the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program is used to satisfy compensatory mitigation requirements of DA permits.
(5) MOAs with other agencies. The district engineer and members of the IRT may enter into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with any other federal, state or local government agency to perform all or some of the IRT review functions described in this section. Such MOAs must include provisions for appropriate federal oversight of the review process. The district engineer retains sole authority for final approval of instruments and other documentation required under this section.
(c) Compensation planning framework for in-lieu fee programs.
(1) The approved instrument for an in-lieu fee program must include a compensation planning framework that will be used to select, secure, and implement aquatic resource restoration, establishment, enhancement, and/or preservation activities. The compensation planning framework must support a watershed approach to compensatory mitigation. All specific projects used to provide compensation for DA permits must be consistent with the approved compensation planning framework. Modifications to the framework must be approved as a significant modification to the instrument by the district engineer, after consultation with the IRT.
(2) The compensation planning framework must contain the following elements:
(i) The geographic service area(s), including a watershed-based rationale for the delineation of each service area;
(ii) A description of the threats to aquatic resources in the service area(s), including how the in-lieu fee program will help offset impacts resulting from those threats;
(iii) An analysis of historic aquatic resource loss in the service area(s);
(iv) An analysis of current aquatic resource conditions in the service area(s), supported by an appropriate level of field documentation;
(v) A statement of aquatic resource goals and objectives for each service area, including a description of the general amounts, types and locations of aquatic resources the program will seek to provide;
(vi) A prioritization strategy for selecting and implementing compensatory mitigation activities;
(vii) An explanation of how any preservation objectives identified in paragraph (c)(2)(v) of this section and addressed in the prioritization strategy in paragraph (c)(2)(vi) satisfy the criteria for use of preservation in § 332.3(h);
(viii) A description of any public and private stakeholder involvement in plan development and implementation, including, where appropriate, coordination with federal, state, tribal and local aquatic resource management and regulatory authorities;
(ix) A description of the long-term protection and management strategies for activities conducted by the in-lieu fee program sponsor;
(x) A strategy for periodic evaluation and reporting on the progress of the program in achieving the goals and objectives in paragraph (c)(2)(v) of this section, including a process for revising the planning framework as necessary; and
(xi) Any other information deemed necessary for effective compensation planning by the district engineer.
(3) The level of detail necessary for the compensation planning framework is at the discretion of the district engineer, and will take into account the characteristics of the service area(s) and the scope of the program. As part of the in-lieu fee program instrument, the compensation planning framework will be reviewed by the IRT, and will be a major factor in the district engineer's decision on whether to approve the instrument.
(d) Review process.
(1) The sponsor is responsible for preparing all documentation associated with establishment of the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program, including the prospectus, instrument, and other appropriate documents, such as mitigation plans for a mitigation bank. The prospectus provides an overview of the proposed mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program and serves as the basis for public and initial IRT comment. For a mitigation bank, the mitigation plan, as described in § 332.4(c), provides detailed plans and specifications for the mitigation bank site. For in-lieu fee programs, mitigation plans will be prepared as in-lieu fee project sites are identified after the instrument has been approved and the in-lieu fee program becomes operational. The instrument provides the authorization for the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program to provide credits to be used as compensatory mitigation for DA permits.
(2) Prospectus. The prospectus must provide a summary of the information regarding the proposed mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program, at a sufficient level of detail to support informed public and IRT comment. The review process begins when the sponsor submits a complete prospectus to the district engineer. For modifications of approved instruments, submittal of a new prospectus is not required; instead, the sponsor must submit a written request for an instrument modification accompanied by appropriate documentation. The district engineer must notify the sponsor within 30 days whether or not a submitted prospectus is complete. A complete prospectus includes the following information:
(i) The objectives of the proposed mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program.
(ii) How the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program will be established and operated.
(iii) The proposed service area.
(iv) The general need for and technical feasibility of the proposed mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program.
(v) The proposed ownership arrangements and long-term management strategy for the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee project sites.
(vi) The qualifications of the sponsor to successfully complete the type(s) of mitigation project(s) proposed, including information describing any past such activities by the sponsor.
(vii) For a proposed mitigation bank, the prospectus must also address:
(A) The ecological suitability of the site to achieve the objectives of the proposed mitigation bank, including the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the bank site and how that site will support the planned types of aquatic resources and functions; and
(B) Assurance of sufficient water rights to support the long-term sustainability of the mitigation bank.
(viii) For a proposed in-lieu fee program, the prospectus must also include:
(A) The compensation planning framework (see paragraph (c) of this section); and
(B) A description of the in-lieu fee program account required by paragraph (i) of this section.
(3) Preliminary review of prospectus. Prior to submitting a prospectus, the sponsor may elect to submit a draft prospectus to the district engineer for comment and consultation. The district engineer will provide copies of the draft prospectus to the IRT and will provide comments back to the sponsor within 30 days. Any comments from IRT members will also be forwarded to the sponsor. This preliminary review is optional but is strongly recommended. It is intended to identify potential issues early so that the sponsor may attempt to address those issues prior to the start of the formal review process.
(4) Public review and comment. Within 30 days of receipt of a complete prospectus or an instrument modification request that will be processed in accordance with paragraph (g)(1) of this section, the district engineer will provide public notice of the proposed mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program, in accordance with the public notice procedures at 33 CFR 325.3. The public notice must, at a minimum, include a summary of the prospectus and indicate that the full prospectus is available to the public for review upon request. For modifications of approved instruments, the public notice must instead summarize, and make available to the public upon request, whatever documentation is appropriate for the modification (e.g., a new or revised mitigation plan). The comment period for public notice will be 30 days, unless the district engineer determines that a longer comment period is appropriate. The district engineer will notify the sponsor if the comment period is extended beyond 30 days, including an explanation of why the longer comment period is necessary. Copies of all comments received in response to the public notice must be distributed to the other IRT members and to the sponsor within 15 days of the close of the public comment period. The district engineer and IRT members may also provide comments to the sponsor at this time, and copies of any such comments will also be distributed to all IRT members. If the construction of a mitigation bank or an in-lieu fee program project requires a DA permit, the public notice requirement may be satisfied through the public notice provisions of the permit processing procedures, provided all of the relevant information is provided.
(5) Initial evaluation.
(i) After the end of the comment period, the district engineer will review the comments received in response to the public notice, and make a written initial evaluation as to the potential of the proposed mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program to provide compensatory mitigation for activities authorized by DA permits. This initial evaluation letter must be provided to the sponsor within 30 days of the end of the public notice comment period.
(ii) If the district engineer determines that the proposed mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program has potential for providing appropriate compensatory mitigation for activities authorized by DA permits, the initial evaluation letter will inform the sponsor that he/she may proceed with preparation of the draft instrument (see paragraph (d)(6) of this section).
(iii) If the district engineer determines that the proposed mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program does not have potential for providing appropriate compensatory mitigation for DA permits, the initial evaluation letter must discuss the reasons for that determination. The sponsor may revise the prospectus to address the district engineer's concerns, and submit the revised prospectus to the district engineer. If the sponsor submits a revised prospectus, a revised public notice will be issued in accordance with paragraph (d)(4) of this section.
(iv) This initial evaluation procedure does not apply to proposed modifications of approved instruments.
(6) Draft instrument.
(i) After considering comments from the district engineer, the IRT, and the public, if the sponsor chooses to proceed with establishment of the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program, he must prepare a draft instrument and submit it to the district engineer. In the case of an instrument modification, the sponsor must prepare a draft amendment (e.g., a specific instrument provision, a new or modified mitigation plan), and submit it to the district engineer. The district engineer must notify the sponsor within 30 days of receipt, whether the draft instrument or amendment is complete. If the draft instrument or amendment is incomplete, the district engineer will request from the sponsor the information necessary to make the draft instrument or amendment complete. Once any additional information is submitted, the district engineer must notify the sponsor as soon as he determines that the draft instrument or amendment is complete. The draft instrument must be based on the prospectus and must describe in detail the physical and legal characteristics of the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program and how it will be established and operated.
(ii) For mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs, the draft instrument must include the following information:
(A) A description of the proposed geographic service area of the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program. The service area is the watershed, ecoregion, physiographic province, and/or other geographic area within which the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program is authorized to provide compensatory mitigation required by DA permits. The service area must be appropriately sized to ensure that the aquatic resources provided will effectively compensate for adverse environmental impacts across the entire service area. For example, in urban areas, a U.S. Geological Survey 8-digit hydrologic unit code (HUC) watershed or a smaller watershed may be an appropriate service area. In rural areas, several contiguous 8-digit HUCs or a 6-digit HUC watershed may be an appropriate service area. Delineation of the service area must also consider any locally-developed standards and criteria that may be applicable. The economic viability of the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program may also be considered in determining the size of the service area. The basis for the proposed service area must be documented in the instrument. An in-lieu fee program or umbrella mitigation banking instrument may have multiple service areas governed by its instrument (e.g., each watershed within a state or Corps district may be a separate service area under the instrument); however, all impacts and compensatory mitigation must be accounted for by service area;
(B) Accounting procedures;
(C) A provision stating that legal responsibility for providing the compensatory mitigation lies with the sponsor once a permittee secures credits from the sponsor;
(D) Default and closure provisions;
(E) Reporting protocols; and
(F) Any other information deemed necessary by the district engineer.
(iii) For a mitigation bank, a complete draft instrument must include the following additional information:
(A) Mitigation plans that include all applicable items listed in § 332.4(c)(2) through (14); and
(B) A credit release schedule, which is tied to achievement of specific milestones. All credit releases must be approved by the district engineer, in consultation with the IRT, based on a determination that required milestones have been achieved. The district engineer, in consultation with the IRT, may modify the credit release schedule, including reducing the number of available credits or suspending credit sales or transfers altogether, where necessary to ensure that all credit sales or transfers remain tied to compensatory mitigation projects with a high likelihood of meeting performance standards;
(iv) For an in-lieu fee program, a complete draft instrument must include the following additional information:
(A) The compensation planning framework (see paragraph (c) of this section);
(B) Specification of the initial allocation of advance credits (see paragraph (n) of this section) and a draft fee schedule for these credits, by service area, including an explanation of the basis for the allocation and draft fee schedule;
(C) A methodology for determining future project-specific credits and fees; and
(D) A description of the in-lieu fee program account required by paragraph (i) of this section.
(7) IRT review. Upon receipt of notification by the district engineer that the draft instrument or amendment is complete, the sponsor must provide the district engineer with a sufficient number of copies of the draft instrument or amendment to distribute to the IRT members. The district engineer will promptly distribute copies of the draft instrument or amendment to the IRT members for a 30-day comment period. The 30-day comment period begins 5 days after the district engineer distributes the copies of the draft instrument or amendment to the IRT. Following the comment period, the district engineer will discuss any comments with the appropriate agencies and with the sponsor. The district engineer will seek to resolve issues using a consensus based approach, to the extent practicable, while still meeting the decision-making time frames specified in this section. Within 90 days of receipt of the complete draft instrument or amendment by the IRT members, the district engineer must notify the sponsor of the status of the IRT review. Specifically, the district engineer must indicate to the sponsor if the draft instrument or amendment is generally acceptable and what changes, if any, are needed. If there are significant unresolved concerns that may lead to a formal objection from one or more IRT members to the final instrument or amendment, the district engineer will indicate the nature of those concerns.
(8) Final instrument. The sponsor must submit a final instrument to the district engineer for approval, with supporting documentation that explains how the final instrument addresses the comments provided by the IRT. For modifications of approved instruments, the sponsor must submit a final amendment to the district engineer for approval, with supporting documentation that explains how the final amendment addresses the comments provided by the IRT. The final instrument or amendment must be provided directly by the sponsor to all members of the IRT. Within 30 days of receipt of the final instrument or amendment, the district engineer will notify the IRT members whether or not he intends to approve the instrument or amendment. If no IRT member objects, by initiating the dispute resolution process in paragraph (e) of this section within 45 days of receipt of the final instrument or amendment, the district engineer will notify the sponsor of his final decision and, if the instrument or amendment is approved, arrange for it to be signed by the appropriate parties. If any IRT member initiates the dispute resolution process, the district engineer will notify the sponsor. Following conclusion of the dispute resolution process, the district engineer will notify the sponsor of his final decision, and if the instrument or amendment is approved, arrange for it to be signed by the appropriate parties. For mitigation banks, the final instrument must contain the information items listed in paragraphs (d)(6)(ii), and (iii) of this section. For in-lieu fee programs, the final instrument must contain the information items listed in paragraphs (d)(6)(ii) and (iv) of this section. For the modification of an approved instrument, the amendment must contain appropriate information, as determined by the district engineer. The final instrument or amendment must be made available to the public upon request.
(e) Dispute resolution process.
(1) Within 15 days of receipt of the district engineer's notification of intent to approve an instrument or amendment, the Regional Administrator of the U.S. EPA, the Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Regional Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service, and/or other senior officials of agencies represented on the IRT may notify the district engineer and other IRT members by letter if they object to the approval of the proposed final instrument or amendment. This letter must include an explanation of the basis for the objection and, where feasible, offer recommendations for resolving the objections. If the district engineer does not receive any objections within this time period, he may proceed to final action on the instrument or amendment.
(2) The district engineer must respond to the objection within 30 days of receipt of the letter. The district engineer's response may indicate an intent to disapprove the instrument or amendment as a result of the objection, an intent to approve the instrument or amendment despite the objection, or may provide a modified instrument or amendment that attempts to address the objection. The district engineer's response must be provided to all IRT members.
(3) Within 15 days of receipt of the district engineer's response, if the Regional Administrator or Regional Director is not satisfied with the response he may forward the issue to the Assistant Administrator for Water of the U.S. EPA, the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks of the U.S. FWS, or the Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere of NOAA, as appropriate, for review and must notify the district engineer by letter via electronic mail or facsimile machine (with copies to all IRT members) that the issue has been forwarded for Headquarters review. This step is available only to the IRT members representing these three federal agencies, however other IRT members who do not agree with the district engineer's final decision do not have to sign the instrument or amendment or recognize the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program for purposes of their own programs and authorities. If an IRT member other than the one filing the original objection has a new objection based on the district engineer's response, he may use the first step in this procedure (paragraph (e)(1) of this section) to provide that objection to the district engineer.
(4) If the issue has not been forwarded to the objecting agency's Headquarters, then the district engineer may proceed with final action on the instrument or amendment. If the issue has been forwarded to the objecting agency's Headquarters, the district engineer must hold in abeyance the final action on the instrument or amendment, pending Headquarters level review described below.
(5) Within 20 days from the date of the letter requesting Headquarters level review, the Assistant Administrator for Water, the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, or the Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere must either notify the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) (ASA(CW)) that further review will not be requested, or request that the ASA(CW) review the final instrument or amendment.
(6) Within 30 days of receipt of the letter from the objecting agency's Headquarters request for ASA(CW)'s review of the final instrument, the ASA(CW), through the Director of Civil Works, must review the draft instrument or amendment and advise the district engineer on how to proceed with final action on that instrument or amendment. The ASA(CW) must immediately notify the Assistant Administrator for Water, the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, and/or the Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere of the final decision.
(7) In cases where the dispute resolution procedure is used, the district engineer must notify the sponsor of his final decision within 150 days of receipt of the final instrument or amendment.
(f) Extension of deadlines.
(1) The deadlines in paragraphs (d) and (e) of this section may be extended by the district engineer at his sole discretion in cases where:
(i) Compliance with other applicable laws, such as consultation under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act or section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, is required;
(ii) It is necessary to conduct government-to-government consultation with Indian tribes;
(iii) Timely submittal of information necessary for the review of the proposed mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program or the proposed modification of an approved instrument is not accomplished by the sponsor; or
(iv) Information that is essential to the district engineer's decision cannot be reasonably obtained within the specified time frame.
(2) In such cases, the district engineer must promptly notify the sponsor in writing of the extension and the reason for it. Such extensions shall be for the minimum time necessary to resolve the issue necessitating the extension.
(g) Modification of instruments—
(1) Approval of an amendment to an approved instrument. Modification of an approved instrument, including the addition and approval of umbrella mitigation bank sites or in-lieu fee project sites or expansions of previously approved mitigation bank or in-lieu fee project sites, must follow the appropriate procedures in paragraph (d) of this section, unless the district engineer determines that the streamlined review process described in paragraph (g)(2) of this section is warranted.
(2) Streamlined review process. The streamlined modification review process may be used for the following modifications of instruments: changes reflecting adaptive management of the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program, credit releases, changes in credit releases and credit release schedules, and changes that the district engineer determines are not significant. If the district engineer determines that the streamlined review process is warranted, he must notify the IRT members and the sponsor of this determination and provide them with copies of the proposed modification. IRT members and the sponsor have 30 days to notify the district engineer if they have concerns with the proposed modification. If IRT members or the sponsor notify the district engineer of such concerns, the district engineer shall attempt to resolve those concerns. Within 60 days of providing the proposed modification to the IRT, the district engineer must notify the IRT members of his intent to approve or disapprove the proposed modification. If no IRT member objects, by initiating the dispute resolution process in paragraph (e) of this section, within 15 days of receipt of this notification, the district engineer will notify the sponsor of his final decision and, if the modification is approved, arrange for it to be signed by the appropriate parties. If any IRT member initiates the dispute resolution process, the district engineer will so notify the sponsor. Following conclusion of the dispute resolution process, the district engineer will notify the sponsor of his final decision, and if the modification is approved, arrange for it to be signed by the appropriate parties.
(h) Umbrella mitigation banking instruments. A single mitigation banking instrument may provide for future authorization of additional mitigation bank sites. As additional sites are selected, they must be included in the mitigation banking instrument as modifications, using the procedures in paragraph (g)(1) of this section. Credit withdrawal from the additional bank sites shall be consistent with paragraph (m) of this section.
(i) In-lieu fee program account.
(1) The in-lieu fee program sponsor must establish a program account after the instrument is approved by the district engineer, prior to accepting any fees from permittees. If the sponsor accepts funds from entities other than permittees, those funds must be kept in separate accounts. The program account must be established at a financial institution that is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. All interests and earnings accruing to the program account must remain in that account for use by the in-lieu fee program for the purposes of providing compensatory mitigation for DA permits. The program account may only be used for the selection, design, acquisition, implementation, and management of in-lieu fee compensatory mitigation projects, except for a small percentage (as determined by the district engineer in consultation with the IRT and specified in the instrument) that can be used for administrative costs.
(2) The sponsor must submit proposed in-lieu fee projects to the district engineer for funding approval. Disbursements from the program account may only be made upon receipt of written authorization from the district engineer, after the district engineer has consulted with the IRT. The terms of the program account must specify that the district engineer has the authority to direct those funds to alternative compensatory mitigation projects in cases where the sponsor does not provide compensatory mitigation in accordance with the time frame specified in paragraph (n)(4) of this section.
(3) The sponsor must provide annual reports to the district engineer and the IRT. The annual reports must include the following information:
(i) All income received, disbursements, and interest earned by the program account;
(ii) A list of all permits for which in-lieu fee program funds were accepted. This list shall include: The Corps permit number (or the state permit number if there is no corresponding Corps permit number, in cases of state programmatic general permits or other regional general permits), the service area in which the authorized impacts are located, the amount of authorized impacts, the amount of required compensatory mitigation, the amount paid to the in-lieu fee program, and the date the funds were received from the permittee;
(iii) A description of in-lieu fee program expenditures from the account, such as the costs of land acquisition, planning, construction, monitoring, maintenance, contingencies, adaptive management, and administration;
(iv) The balance of advance credits and released credits at the end of the report period for each service area; and
(v) Any other information required by the district engineer.
(4) The district engineer may audit the records pertaining to the program account. All books, accounts, reports, files, and other records relating to the in-lieu fee program account shall be available at reasonable times for inspection and audit by the district engineer.
(j) In-lieu fee project approval.
(1) As in-lieu fee project sites are identified and secured, the sponsor must submit mitigation plans to the district engineer that include all applicable items listed in § 332.4(c)(2) through (14). The mitigation plan must also include a credit release schedule consistent with paragraph (o)(8) of this section that is tied to achievement of specific performance standards. The review and approval of in-lieu fee projects will be conducted in accordance with the procedures in paragraph (g)(1) of this section, as modifications of the in-lieu fee program instrument. This includes compensatory mitigation projects conducted by another party on behalf of the sponsor through requests for proposals and awarding of contracts.
(2) If a DA permit is required for an in-lieu fee project, the permit should not be issued until all relevant provisions of the mitigation plan have been substantively determined, to ensure that the DA permit accurately reflects all relevant provisions of the approved mitigation plan, such as performance standards.
(k) Coordination of mitigation banking instruments and DA permit issuance. In cases where initial establishment of the mitigation bank, or the development of a new project site under an umbrella banking instrument, involves activities requiring DA authorization, the permit should not be issued until all relevant provisions of the mitigation plan have been substantively determined. This is to ensure that the DA permit accurately reflects all relevant provisions of the final instrument, such as performance standards.
(l) Project implementation.
(1) The sponsor must have an approved instrument prior to collecting funds from permittees to satisfy compensatory mitigation requirements for DA permits.
(2) Authorization to sell credits to satisfy compensatory mitigation requirements in DA permits is contingent on compliance with all of the terms of the instrument. This includes constructing a mitigation bank or in-lieu fee project in accordance with the mitigation plan approved by the district engineer and incorporated by reference in the instrument. If the aquatic resource restoration, establishment, enhancement, and/or preservation activities cannot be implemented in accordance with the approved mitigation plan, the district engineer must consult with the sponsor and the IRT to consider modifications to the instrument, including adaptive management, revisions to the credit release schedule, and alternatives for providing compensatory mitigation to satisfy any credits that have already been sold.
(3) An in-lieu fee program sponsor is responsible for the implementation, long-term management, and any required remediation of the restoration, establishment, enhancement, and/or preservation activities, even though those activities may be conducted by other parties through requests for proposals or other contracting mechanisms.
(m) Credit withdrawal from mitigation banks. The mitigation banking instrument may allow for an initial debiting of a percentage of the total credits projected at mitigation bank maturity, provided the following conditions are satisfied: the mitigation banking instrument and mitigation plan have been approved, the mitigation bank site has been secured, appropriate financial assurances have been established, and any other requirements determined to be necessary by the district engineer have been fulfilled. The mitigation banking instrument must provide a schedule for additional credit releases as appropriate milestones are achieved (see paragraph (o)(8) of this section). Implementation of the approved mitigation plan shall be initiated no later than the first full growing season after the date of the first credit transaction.
(n) Advance credits for in-lieu fee programs.
(1) The in-lieu fee program instrument may make a limited number of advance credits available to permittees when the instrument is approved. The number of advance credits will be determined by the district engineer, in consultation with the IRT, and will be specified for each service area in the instrument. The number of advance credits will be based on the following considerations:
(i) The compensation planning framework;
(ii) The sponsor's past performance for implementing aquatic resource restoration, establishment, enhancement, and/or preservation activities in the proposed service area or other areas; and
(iii) The projected financing necessary to begin planning and implementation of in-lieu fee projects.
(2) To determine the appropriate number of advance credits for a particular service area, the district engineer may require the sponsor to provide confidential supporting information that will not be made available to the general public. Examples of confidential supporting information may include prospective in-lieu fee project sites.
(3) As released credits are produced by in-lieu fee projects, they must be used to fulfill any advance credits that have already been provided within the project service area before any remaining released credits can be sold or transferred to permittees. Once previously provided advance credits have been fulfilled, an equal number of advance credits is re-allocated to the sponsor for sale or transfer to fulfill new mitigation requirements, consistent with the terms of the instrument. The number of advance credits available to the sponsor at any given time to sell or transfer to permittees in a given service area is equal to the number of advance credits specified in the instrument, minus any that have already been provided but not yet fulfilled.
(4) Land acquisition and initial physical and biological improvements must be completed by the third full growing season after the first advance credit in that service area is secured by a permittee, unless the district engineer determines that more or less time is needed to plan and implement an in-lieu fee project. If the district engineer determines that there is a compensatory mitigation deficit in a specific service area by the third growing season after the first advance credit in that service area is sold, and determines that it would not be in the public interest to allow the sponsor additional time to plan and implement an in-lieu fee project, the district engineer must direct the sponsor to disburse funds from the in-lieu fee program account to provide alternative compensatory mitigation to fulfill those compensation obligations.
(5) The sponsor is responsible for complying with the terms of the in-lieu fee program instrument. If the district engineer determines, as a result of review of annual reports on the operation of the in-lieu fee program (see paragraphs (p)(2) and (q)(1) of this section), that it is not performing in compliance with its instrument, the district engineer will take appropriate action, which may include suspension of credit sales, to ensure compliance with the in-lieu fee program instrument (see paragraph (o)(10) of this section). Permittees that secured credits from the in-lieu fee program are not responsible for in-lieu fee program compliance.
(o) Determining credits.
(1) Units of measure. The principal units for credits and debits are acres, linear feet, functional assessment units, or other suitable metrics of particular resource types. Functional assessment units or other suitable metrics may be linked to acres or linear feet.
(2) Assessment. Where practicable, an appropriate assessment method (e.g., hydrogeomorphic approach to wetlands functional assessment, index of biological integrity) or other suitable metric must be used to assess and describe the aquatic resource types that will be restored, established, enhanced and/or preserved by the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee project.
(3) Credit production. The number of credits must reflect the difference between pre- and post-compensatory mitigation project site conditions, as determined by a functional or condition assessment or other suitable metric.
(4) Credit value. Once a credit is debited (sold or transferred to a permittee), its value cannot change.
(5) Credit costs.
(i) The cost of compensatory mitigation credits provided by a mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program is determined by the sponsor.
(ii) For in-lieu fee programs, the cost per unit of credit must include the expected costs associated with the restoration, establishment, enhancement, and/or preservation of aquatic resources in that service area. These costs must be based on full cost accounting, and include, as appropriate, expenses such as land acquisition, project planning and design, construction, plant materials, labor, legal fees, monitoring, and remediation or adaptive management activities, as well as administration of the in-lieu fee program. The cost per unit credit must also take into account contingency costs appropriate to the stage of project planning, including uncertainties in construction and real estate expenses. The cost per unit of credit must also take into account the resources necessary for the long-term management and protection of the in-lieu fee project. In addition, the cost per unit credit must include financial assurances that are necessary to ensure successful completion of in-lieu fee projects.
(6) Credits provided by preservation. These credits should be specified as acres, linear feet, or other suitable metrics of preservation of a particular resource type. In determining the compensatory mitigation requirements for DA permits using mitigation banks or in-lieu fee programs, the district engineer should apply a higher mitigation ratio if the requirements are to be met through the use of preservation credits. In determining this higher ratio, the district engineer must consider the relative importance of both the impacted and the preserved aquatic resources in sustaining watershed functions.
(7) Credits provided by riparian areas, buffers, and uplands. These credits should be specified as acres, linear feet, or other suitable metrics of riparian area, buffer, and uplands, respectively. Non-aquatic resources can only be used as compensatory mitigation for impacts to aquatic resources authorized by DA permits when those resources are essential to maintaining the ecological viability of adjoining aquatic resources. In determining the compensatory mitigation requirements for DA permits using mitigation banks and in-lieu fee programs, the district engineer may authorize the use of riparian area, buffer, and/or upland credits if he determines that these areas are essential to sustaining aquatic resource functions in the watershed and are the most appropriate compensation for the authorized impacts.
(8) Credit release schedule.
(i) General considerations. Release of credits must be tied to performance-based milestones (e.g., construction, planting, establishment of specified plant and animal communities). The credit release schedule should reserve a significant share of the total credits for release only after full achievement of ecological performance standards. When determining the credit release schedule, factors to be considered may include, but are not limited to: The method of providing compensatory mitigation credits (e.g., restoration), the likelihood of success, the nature and amount of work needed to generate the credits, and the aquatic resource type(s) and function(s) to be provided by the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee project. The district engineer will determine the credit release schedule, including the share to be released only after full achievement of performance standards, after consulting with the IRT. Once released, credits may only be used to satisfy compensatory mitigation requirements of a DA permit if the use of credits for a specific permit has been approved by the district engineer.
(ii) For single-site mitigation banks, the terms of the credit release schedule must be specified in the mitigation banking instrument. The credit release schedule may provide for an initial debiting of a limited number of credits once the instrument is approved and other appropriate milestones are achieved (see paragraph (m) of this section).
(iii) For in-lieu fee projects and umbrella mitigation bank sites, the terms of the credit release schedule must be specified in the approved mitigation plan. When an in-lieu fee project or umbrella mitigation bank site is implemented and is achieving the performance-based milestones specified in the credit release schedule, credits are generated in accordance with the credit release schedule for the approved mitigation plan. If the in-lieu fee project or umbrella mitigation bank site does not achieve those performance-based milestones, the district engineer may modify the credit release schedule, including reducing the number of credits.
(9) Credit release approval. Credit releases for mitigation banks and in-lieu fee projects must be approved by the district engineer. In order for credits to be released, the sponsor must submit documentation to the district engineer demonstrating that the appropriate milestones for credit release have been achieved and requesting the release. The district engineer will provide copies of this documentation to the IRT members for review. IRT members must provide any comments to the district engineer within 15 days of receiving this documentation. However, if the district engineer determines that a site visit is necessary, IRT members must provide any comments to the district engineer within 15 days of the site visit. The district engineer must schedule the site visit so that it occurs as soon as it is practicable, but the site visit may be delayed by seasonal considerations that affect the ability of the district engineer and the IRT to assess whether the applicable credit release milestones have been achieved. After full consideration of any comments received, the district engineer will determine whether the milestones have been achieved and the credits can be released. The district engineer shall make a decision within 30 days of the end of that comment period, and notify the sponsor and the IRT.
(10) Suspension and termination. If the district engineer determines that the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program is not meeting performance standards or complying with the terms of the instrument, appropriate action will be taken. Such actions may include, but are not limited to, suspending credit sales, adaptive management, decreasing available credits, utilizing financial assurances, and terminating the instrument.
(p) Accounting procedures.
(1) For mitigation banks, the instrument must contain a provision requiring the sponsor to establish and maintain a ledger to account for all credit transactions. Each time an approved credit transaction occurs, the sponsor must notify the district engineer.
(2) For in-lieu fee programs, the instrument must contain a provision requiring the sponsor to establish and maintain an annual report ledger in accordance with paragraph (i)(3) of this section, as well as individual ledgers that track the production of released credits for each in-lieu fee project.
(q) Reporting.
(1) Ledger account. The sponsor must compile an annual ledger report showing the beginning and ending balance of available credits and permitted impacts for each resource type, all additions and subtractions of credits, and any other changes in credit availability (e.g., additional credits released, credit sales suspended). The ledger report must be submitted to the district engineer, who will distribute copies to the IRT members. The ledger report is part of the administrative record for the mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program. The district engineer will make the ledger report available to the public upon request.
(2) Monitoring reports. The sponsor is responsible for monitoring the mitigation bank site or the in-lieu fee project site in accordance with the approved monitoring requirements to determine the level of success and identify problems requiring remedial action or adaptive management measures. Monitoring must be conducted in accordance with the requirements in § 332.6, and at time intervals appropriate for the particular project type and until such time that the district engineer, in consultation with the IRT, has determined that the performance standards have been attained. The instrument must include requirements for periodic monitoring reports to be submitted to the district engineer, who will provide copies to other IRT members.
(3) Financial assurance and long-term management funding report. The district engineer may require the sponsor to provide an annual report showing beginning and ending balances, including deposits into and any withdrawals from, the accounts providing funds for financial assurances and long-term management activities. The report should also include information on the amount of required financial assurances and the status of those assurances, including their potential expiration.
(r) Use of credits. Except as provided below, all activities authorized by DA permits are eligible, at the discretion of the district engineer, to use mitigation banks or in-lieu fee programs to fulfill compensatory mitigation requirements for DA permits. The district engineer will determine the number and type(s) of credits required to compensate for the authorized impacts. Permit applicants may propose to use a particular mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program to provide the required compensatory mitigation. In such cases, the sponsor must provide the permit applicant with a statement of credit availability. The district engineer must review the permit applicant's compensatory mitigation proposal, and notify the applicant of his determination regarding the acceptability of using that mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program.
(s) IRT concerns with use of credits. If, in the view of a member of the IRT, an issued permit or series of issued permits raises concerns about how credits from a particular mitigation bank or in-lieu fee program are being used to satisfy compensatory mitigation requirements (including concerns about whether credit use is consistent with the terms of the instrument), the IRT member may notify the district engineer in writing of the concern. The district engineer shall promptly consult with the IRT to address the concern. Resolution of the concern is at the discretion of the district engineer, consistent with applicable statutes, regulations, and policies regarding compensatory mitigation requirements for DA permits. Nothing in this section limits the authorities designated to IRT agencies under existing statutes or regulations.
(t) Site protection.
(1) For mitigation bank sites, real estate instruments, management plans, or other long-term mechanisms used for site protection must be finalized before any credits can be released.
(2) For in-lieu fee project sites, real estate instruments, management plans, or other long-term protection mechanisms used for site protection must be finalized before advance credits can become released credits.
(u) Long-term management.
(1) The legal mechanisms and the party responsible for the long-term management and the protection of the mitigation bank site must be documented in the instrument or, in the case of umbrella mitigation banking instruments and in-lieu fee programs, the approved mitigation plans. The responsible party should make adequate provisions for the operation, maintenance, and long-term management of the compensatory mitigation project site. The long-term management plan should include a description of long-term management needs and identify the funding mechanism that will be used to meet those needs.
(2) The instrument may contain provisions for the sponsor to transfer long-term management responsibilities to a land stewardship entity, such as a public agency, non-governmental organization, or private land manager.
(3) The instrument or approved mitigation plan must address the financial arrangements and timing of any necessary transfer of long-term management funds to the steward.
(4) Where needed, the acquisition and protection of water rights should be secured and documented in the instrument or, in the case of umbrella mitigation banking instruments and in-lieu fee programs, the approved mitigation site plan.
(v) Grandfathering of existing instruments—
(1) Mitigation banking instruments. All mitigation banking instruments approved on or after July 9, 2008 must meet the requirements of this part. Mitigation banks approved prior to July 9, 2008 may continue to operate under the terms of their existing instruments. However, any modification to such a mitigation banking instrument on or after July 9, 2008, including authorization of additional sites under an umbrella mitigation banking instrument, expansion of an existing site, or addition of a different type of resource credits (e.g., stream credits to a wetland bank) must be consistent with the terms of this part.
(2) In-lieu fee program instruments. All in-lieu fee program instruments approved on or after July 9, 2008 must meet the requirements of this part. In-lieu fee programs operating under instruments approved prior to July 9, 2008 may continue to operate under those instruments for two years after the effective date of this rule, after which time they must meet the requirements of this part, unless the district engineer determines that circumstances warrant an extension of up to three additional years. The district engineer must consult with the IRT before approving such extensions. Any revisions made to the in-lieu fee program instrument on or after July 9, 2008 must be consistent with the terms of this part. Any approved project for which construction was completed under the terms of a previously approved instrument may continue to operate indefinitely under those terms if the district engineer determines that the project is providing appropriate mitigation substantially consistent with the terms of this part.

Title 33 published on 2013-07-01

no entries appear in the Federal Register after this date.