Since 2007, SHA has restored 200 acres of wetlands and 9.8 miles of streams meeting and exceeding our goal of 200 wetland acres and 5 miles of stream by the end of 2011. However, this is not the end, there are currently many wetland mitigation and stream restoration projects underway in our state.
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed in Maryland includes hundreds of miles of wetlands, streams, and valuable ecosystems. Watersheds are defined areas of land where all streams, creeks, and rivers drain to the same place. Wetlands are a type of water resource found within watershed areas. They generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and other similar areas. Wetlands are among the most diverse ecosystems on the planet with representatives from plant and wildlife families such as cattails, sedges, fish, birds, turtles, salamanders, frogs, and many others.
The Maryland State Highway Administration’s Mitigation Team is dedicated taking the necessary measures to protect and restore streams and wetlands in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and our state. We’ve established three key actions that the program carries out for our roadway projects. These include looking at ways to avoid impacts to wetlands and streams all together, reducing effects where possible, and/or replacing resources when effects cannot be avoided or reduced. This process of replacing resource functions of wetlands and streams is known as compensatory mitigation.
Compensatory mitigation is a way of replacing the lost function of a particular wetland or stream system. For example, a wetland located along a highway may be affected by one of our roadway widening projects. Avoidance or minimization of impacts may not be possible depending on the proposed improvements and the location of existing resources. In this case, we would enhance or restore wetlands in nearby locations or within the same watershed to compensate for the roadway project impacts. We would also consider creating a brand new wetland site at nearby locations or within the same watershed where natural resources and water quality would be improved and other identified watershed-based needs would be achieved.
Mitigation, along with wetland and stream enhancements and restoration, is a collaborative effort that engages local communities, environmental regulatory agencies, and environmental interest groups. Residents and local natural resource groups often provide valuable information on potentially viable sites that could benefit from a newly created wetland or a stream restoration project.
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