Mitigation is the restoration, creation, enhancement, or preservation of a wetland, stream, or habitat conservation area to offset adverse impacts to similar nearby habitats from permitted projects, typically in the same watershed. The goal is to replace the exact function and value of the lost habitats in another location.
The federal Clean Water Act, as well as some state and local governments, require mitigation for permitted disturbance or destruction of wetland or stream habitats. The Endangered Species Act requires mitigation for permitted loss of endangered wildlife habitat.
The Red Creek Consolidated Mitigation Bank is a stream and wetland mitigation bank located in north central Jackson County. The bank is co-sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT).
The 1,200-acre mitigation site is part of a larger 3,031-acre tract owned and managed by the Conservancy in the Pascagoula River watershed, a high priority conservation region. The bank adjoins the Pascagoula River Wildlife Management Area.
The Red Creek bank has been formally approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is providing stream and wetland mitigation credits for use by MDOT for transportation projects in the region.
The Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Foundation, holds a conservation easement on the bank site. A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding agreement that limits certain types of uses or prevents development from taking place on a piece of property now and in the future, while protecting the property’s ecological or open-space values.
Stream restoration is a process that returns damaged or channelized streams to the shape and character needed for healthy aquatic ecosystems. This can be done by constructing a new stream channel, or by reconfiguring an existing channel to improve habitat.
The Red Creek mitigation bank includes complete channel restoration and channel improvement, as well as preservation of healthy streams. View the slideshow to see before and after photos of stream restoration at Lower and Upper Holly Creeks.
At the Red Creek mitigation bank, forest restoration includes thinning loblolly pine plantations along the streams and in the uplands in preparation for longleaf pine forest restoration. Planting longleaf pine seedlings and native hardwood trees is also an essential part of forest restoration.
Mechanical brush cutting is used to clear unwanted brush in wet pine flats.
Control burns are used to restore the natural process of fire back onto the landscape to provide many benefits – improve wildlife habitat, release nutrients, expose soil for seed germination, stimulate growth of longleaf pine seedlings as well as grasses and wildflowers and control needle blight.
Select use of herbicides is used to control unwanted exotic invasive species such as cogon grass (Imperata cylindrica), a non-native plant that spreads rapidly and displaces native vegetation and wildlife.
Monitoring is conducted to ensure that restoration actions are having the intended results. This includes monitoring of the shape and stability of stream channels, the wet and dry cycles of wetlands, and the plant and animal species that live there. At Red Creek, there are many designated vegetation, aquatic insect and stream shape monitoring stations as well as, groundwater and stream monitoring wells.
The Red Creek project is restoring aquatic and forest habitat for wildlife and helping to improve one of the country’s special and unique rivers, providing a safe and healthy water source for people.
Want to see the restoration process? Here's the process from beginning to end.