Low morning clouds are reflected in the still water of a creek that winds through green wetlands.
Cumberland Marsh Dawn view of Holt Creek from the Vandell Preserve at Cumberland Marsh boardwalk overlook. New Kent, Virginia. © Daniel White/TNC

Stories in Virginia

Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund

The Trust Fund helps TNC make large-scale freshwater conservation in Virginia possible.

This page was updated on November 13, 2020..

Restoring Wetlands and Streams for 25 Years

Over the last 25 years, the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund (Trust Fund) has proven the wisdom of investing in wetlands and streams and in restoring the natural services they provide, such as clean water, flood control and recreation. 

When the Trust Fund launched in 1995, the rationale behind it was simple: developers whose projects impacted small, scattered wetlands (generally less than an acre) could—instead of attempting on-site measures of dubious quality and benefit—mitigate those damages by paying fees set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

The Nature Conservancy would then use those pooled resources to undertake large-scale conservation projects in high priority areas. The program has evolved regularly over its first quarter-century, expanding to include stream projects and adding the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality as a co-administrator.

From a relatively small cumulative impact, the Trust Fund has conserved more than 20,000 acres—nearly half of which is public land, including areas managed by the cities of Charlottesville, Harrisonburg and Fredericksburg—prevented tons of sediment from polluting streams and served as a mitigation model being emulated in states such as Ohio and Utah.

A woman wearing a face mask is shown in profile looking off to her right. She holds a clipboard and papers for recording field observations.
Wetlands Monitoring TNC's Lindsay Schneider monitors plant life in a VARTF wetland restoration site at Vandell Preserve at Cumberland Marsh, New Kent, Virginia. © Daniel White/TNC
Close up view of a small yellow blossom with a red center. An open wetlands area is visible in the background.
Sensitive Joint Vetch Cumberland Marsh is home to the world's largest population of the rare sensitive joint-vetch. © Shaina Huynh / TNC

TRUST FUND HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Trust Fund program was established in 1995, amended in 2003, and a new operating agreement was signed in 2011.
  • Through the end of 2018, the Corps has authorized over $60 million for the Conservancy to pursue 134 mitigation projects.
  • If you are interested in submitting a project for potential funding through the Trust Fund, please contact Karen Johnson at 804-249-3416.
  • If you are interested in purchasing mitigation credits from the Trust Fund, please contact Avery Stone at avery.stone@tnc.org.

Purchasing Credits

The Trust Fund is dedicated to replacing the greatest value in terms of acreage and function, while providing a specific emphasis on protecting Virginia’s rare plants, animals and natural communities.

Purchasing and Approval

Mitigation credits are available to meet the needs of the regulated community.

Using the Trust Fund

The Trust Fund is administered in partnership with the United States Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District (Corps), the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and The Nature Conservancy in Virginia (TNC) and was created in part to provide permit applicants another mitigation tool. 

If an individual proposes to impact a regulated stream or wetland, the individual may be given the option to purchase credits from the Trust Fund. The use of the Trust Fund as a mitigation option is provided by the 2008 Mitigation Rule (33 CFR 332) and under the guidance of the appropriate regulatory agencies.

Generally, the Trust Fund consolidates money from many projects with small impacts (less than 1 acre) and pools the resources to accomplish larger projects that have a greater chance of ecological success. These funds are then used, upon approval from the Corps and DEQ, by TNC to implement projects involving the restoration, enhancement and preservation of wetlands and streams.

The Trust Fund helps make large-scale conservation possible. The program is able to implement large-scale watershed efforts that restore, enhance and protect water quality through cost-effective, ecologically preferable projects. 

By using TNC's conservation planning, projects are part of ongoing conservation initiatives with comprehensive ecological management plans. The Trust Fund utilizes an extensive Compensation Planning Framework that drives where TNC looks for appropriate projects. Mitigation sites therefore are most often located within a conservation area that provides greater ecological benefit than would an isolated project.

Through the Trust Fund, TNC and its conservation partners conduct restoration and preservation activities in the same watersheds where wetland and stream disturbances have occurred. In addition, the Trust Fund is cost-effective as land is often donated or purchased at less than or equal to fair market value. These savings can then be used for additional mitigation projects.

Snapshot of Projects

Through the end of 2018, the Corps has authorized over $60 million for TNC to pursue 134 mitigation projects.

These projects attempt to achieve the overall programmatic goal of water quality improvement through the creation, restoration and enhancement of wetlands and streams and through the restoration and enhancement of the surrounding upland buffers. The Trust Fund also achieves the preservation of highly functional wetlands, stream and buffer areas which add to water quality protection and improvement. 

The Trust Fund received funding approvals for the following mitigation activities. Details of these projects are included in the 2018 annual report.

  • Non-tidal wetlands – 650 acres of restoration, over 4,000 acres of preservation
  • Tidal wetlands – 70 acres of restoration, over 350 acres of preservation, Phragmites eradication, oyster reef restoration, submerged aquatic vegetation restoration
  • Stream channel restoration and enhancement activities along 92,000 linear feet (lf)
  • Upland buffer planting of 630 acres
  • Livestock exclusion along 48,000 lf
  • Stream and riparian buffer preservation along 650,000 lf
  • Upland and riparian buffer preservation of 4,600 acres
  • Protection of over 10,000 additional acres – not considered as mitigation
  • Establishment or additions to six state Natural Area Preserves and three state Wildlife Management Areas
  • Restored streams within three city or county parks

Request for Proposal

Download

Request for Proposal

The Nature Conservancy is soliciting proposals for full-delivery services for tidal wetland mitigation project(s) in the Potomac River basin and/or stream mitigation project(s) in the Chesapeake Bay basin in Virginia. 

The purpose of the project(s) is to provide wetland mitigation to offset unavoidable impacts for which the Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund was utilized as the compensatory mitigation.  TNC is seeking is seeking projects that will deliver 1.75 or more tidal wetland credits that can service the Potomac River Basin Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) 02070011 or 02070010 and/or deliver 1,200 or more USM stream credits that can service the Chesapeake Bay basin priority HUC 02080108 but could also be located within HUCs 02080102, 02080101, or 02080111.  TNC will also consider lump sum purchase of tidal wetland credits and stream credits from an approved mitigation bank or banks.

First Round Proposal Submissions due by April 30, 2021 (or as specified in any addenda to the RFP).

TRUST FUND DOWNLOADS (PDF)

  • Map of Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund projects through 2019.

    Trust Fund Projects

    Virginia Aquatic Resources Trust Fund projects through 2019.

    DOWNLOAD

Trust Fund Annual Reports