Cumberland Marsh is home to the world's largest population of the rare sensitive joint-vetch.
Sensitive Joint Vetch Cumberland Marsh is home to the world's largest population of the rare sensitive joint-vetch. © Shaina Huynh / TNC

Stories in Virginia

VARTF: Purchasing and Approval of Mitigation Credits

The Conservancy has mitigation credits available to meet the needs of the regulated community.

UNDERSTANDING AVAILABLE CREDITS

The Trust Fund has two types of credits available for purchase by permittees, Advance Credits and Released Credits.

Released Credits are those credits available and released for mitigation projects already in the ground. Credits are based on meeting success monitoring and approved by the IRT.  These credits are equivalent to mitigation bank credits and may be sold to satisfy mitigation requirements. Released Credits can be considered the first choice in the preferential hierarchy established by the 2008 rule. Released Credits are currently available for non-tidal wetlands in the Chowan, Lower James, Rappahannock, York and Potomac basins.

Please contact Suzy Sidharta at ssidharta@tnc.org for specific service area availability and pricing.

Advance Credits are in-lieu-fee credits sold in advance of mitigation sites generating released credits. Advance Credits are available in nearly every service area within Virginia. There are a limited number of credits available for each watershed and resource type (Exhibit B of Instrument). Pricing for Advanced Credits are available here (Exhibit D). These credits are considered second in the preferential hierarchy established by the 2008 rule. 

WHO APPROVES TRUST FUND PROJECTS? 

Regulatory agencies determine whether a permit applicant can use the Trust Fund as the selected mitigation option, as well as the required mitigation. The Conservancy establishes the fee schedule for credits which determines the amount that the permit applicant’s pays to provide the appropriate mitigation for the permitted impact.

The Conservancy holds the mitigation payments in an interest-generating account. These payments are then used by the Conservancy to complete the required stream and/or wetland mitigation. 

Potential projects are proposed by the Conservancy, and regulatory agencies (Corps and DEQ) must approve both the proposed project and the requested funding amount before starting the project. The regulatory review panel is known as the IRT (Interagency Review Panel) and is co-chaired by the Corps and DEQ. Additional agency representatives from the  United States Fish and Wildlife Service(FWS), NOAAEPA, and DGIF provide regular review and input of 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 development of a final project plan. 

HOW DO THE CONSERVANCY AND REGULATORY AGENCIES SELECT PROJECTS?

Conservancy Trust Fund staff pursue wetland and stream projects that meet a strict set of criteria. Conservancy staff also review projects proposed by regulatory or advisory agencies, localities, consultants, and other conservation organizations. Conservancy Trust Fund staff assist potential partners through the site review, proposal process, and implementation of funded activities. The following items are considered during the identification/search for and review of a potential project: 

  • Overall fit within the Trust Fund Compensation Planning Framework
  • Appropriateness of the site to provide mitigation for permitted impacts
  • Mitigation need and available funds in the project area (major river basin)
  • 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
WHAT DOES THE CONSERVANCY NEED TO PROPOSE NEW PROJECTS?

As Conservancy Trust Fund staff develop new projects they compile specific information needed for a project proposal. The proposal document includes the following:

  • Clear objectives for the project
  • Site selection factors
  • Site protection method and details
  • Baseline information
  • Conceptual mitigation plan
  • Proposed credits

This information is provided to the IRT at the time each site is proposed and made available through Public Notice.

HOW DOES THE CONSERVANCY IMPLEMENT NEW PROJECTS?

Once a project has been proposed, gone through a public comment period, and is approved by the Corps and DEQ, the Conservancy develops a final mitigation plan for each site. Any changes necessary since the project was proposed based on IRT input, or response to public comments is incorporated in the final plan which includes the following twelve elements:

  • Objectives
  • Site selection
  • Site protection
  • Baseline information
  • Credit determination
  • Final mitigation plan
  • Maintenance plan
  • Performance standards
  • Monitoring requirement
  • Long-term management
  • Adaptive management
  • Financial assurances 
REQUESTING CREDITS

When credits are requested from the Trust Fund, they must be accompanied by a voucher. The process is briefly outlined as follows:

  • Applicant contacts TNC for credit availability and requests number and type of credits required.
  • Applicant completes and submits a Credit Availability Voucher.
  • All information must be filled out completely when submitted to TNC.
  • If credits are available in the appropriate service area, TNC will issue a Letter of Credit Availability with a specific deadline for payment.
  • Applicant submits Letter of Credit Availability with their permit documents to the regulatory agencies.
  • When the applicant is ready to purchase the mitigation credits (before the deadline has passed), the applicant / permit manager must complete a Payment Voucher. This will reflect any changes since the initial request and the final mitigation requirements of the permit.
  • Applicant returns the payment voucher and the payment to TNC.
  • TNC issues acknowledgement of payment and assumes liability for impacts and mitigation requirements.
CONTACTS

For credit availability, pricing, voucher submission or payment contact Suzy Sidharta at ssidharta@tnc.org.

Additional details concerning the Trust Fund are included in the most recent annual report (pdf). A map of the project sites is also available. If you are interested in submitting a project for potential funding through the Trust Fund, please contact Karen Johnson (Director of Wetland and Stream Mitigation) at 804-249-3416.

EXPLORE MORE TRUST FUND PAGES >> Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund Overview

IMPORTANT NOTE

As sponsor of the Trust Fund, The Nature Conservancy has the discretion not to sell Advance or Release credits for impacts greater than three (3) acres of wetlands or two thousand (2,000) linear feet of stream or for impacts to Heritage resources as defined by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.  In determining whether to offer credits for sale in these cases, The Nature Conservancy may consider various factors in its discretion, including but not limited to:  the effect of the impact on the Conservancy’s conservation priorities, and, in the case of Advance Credits, the Conservancy’s ability to mitigate for the impacts in the appropriate watershed.    The Conservancy has exercised this discretion extremely infrequently over its 23-year history.   We stress it here simply to give members of the regulated community advance notice that if their project falls into the above outlined categories, they should contact us early in the process to ensure that the Trust Fund can, in fact, satisfy their mitigation needs.