Big Darby Creek
Big Darby Creek Stream restoration site at Big Darby Creek Headwaters Preserve © Anthony Sasson/TNC

Stories in Ohio

Ohio Stream and Wetland In-Lieu Fee Mitigation Program (OMP)

OMP restores and protects streams and wetlands for future generations while offsetting unavoidable environmental impacts from economic development.

Contact the Ohio Mitigation Program:  Devin Schenk dschenk@tnc.org or 614-339-8105

WORK WITH THE OMP 

WHY THE NATURE CONSERVANCY?

Through the OMP, the Conservancy is able to perform stream and wetlands restoration that enhances and protects water quality and provides quality stream and wetland habitat while allowing economic development.

The Ohio River, Lake Erie and their tributaries are of critical importance to the Conservancy's efforts to conserve whole systems. Degraded streams and wetlands, and failed mitigation projects have a pronounced cumulative impact on these large-scale systems.

OMP consolidates money from many  small permitted impacts to streams and wetlands and pools those resources to complete/implement well-designed and strategically located projects that have a high chance of ecological success. Research has found that permittee-responsible mitigation projects, which are often small, scattered and poorly placed in the landscape, have a high failure rate. Through OMP, the Conservancy and its conservation partners can conduct restoration and preservation activities in the same watersheds where wetland and stream disturbances have occurred, and provide further funding for watershed enhancement.   Restoring the streams and wetlands in the watersheds of impact also provides the ecosystem services of flooding, habitat and water quality to local residents and communities.

Where possible, projects are also part of ongoing conservation initiatives by The Nature Conservancy or other conservation partners with comprehensive ecological management and watershed plans OMP utilizes an extensive Compensation Planning Framework that was developed by the Conservancy to drive project selection on a watershed-based scale. The result is that mitigation sites will be located in areas that provide greater ecological benefit than small, isolated projects.  

HOW DO THE CONSERVANCY AND REGULATORY AGENCIES SELECT PROJECTS?

The Conservancy OMP staff pursues wetland and stream projects that meet a strict set of criteria. The following items are considered during the identification/search for and review of a potential project: 

  • Overall fit within the OMP Compensation Planning Framework.
  • Appropriateness of the site to provide mitigation for permitted impacts.
  • Mitigation need and available funds in the project area (Primary Service Area).
  • Likelihood of long-term success.
  • Ability to permanently protect aquatic resources (ex. conservation easement).
  • Proximity to identified areas of concern, environmentally sensitive sites, or other protected lands.
  • Project cost.

The Conservancy will use a Site Selection and Evaluation Checklist, developed in coordination with other external experts, to score the proposed project and then develop a concept plan for the highest scoring projects in that Primary Service Area. The concept plan is submitted to the Interagency Review Team for their review and approval.

WHO APPROVES OMP PROJECTS?

The regulatory agencies ultimately approve OMP’s restoration projects. Potential projects are proposed by the Conservancy to the regulatory agencies who must approve both the proposed project and the budget before the project can move forward. The regulatory review panel is known as the IRT (Interagency Review Team) and is chaired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). Additional agency representatives on the IRT are from Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), and Natural Resource Conservation Service. The IRT provides regular review and input on the proposed projects.

Each project site is also public noticed through the Corps and available for public comment for a specific period of time. The Conservancy addresses IRT and public comments in the development of a final project plan.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact the Ohio Mitigation Program Manager, Devin Schenk at dschenk@tnc.org or 614-339-8105