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A three-tiered framework to select, prioritize, and evaluate potential wetland and stream mitigation banking sites

Abstract

Wetland and stream mitigation programs originated to offset the unavoidable impacts to wetlands and streams from activities related to development. Until recently, most mitigation in the United States and globally was done on a case-by-case basis, with site selection based on availability. Today, systematic programs that choose sites based on structural and ecological characteristics that give an indication of the feasibility of the site for wetland and stream mitigation banking are necessary. This paper outlines a three-level framework to select, prioritize, and evaluate potential wetland and stream mitigation banking sites. The framework was tested on three ten-digit hydrologic unit code watersheds in West Virginia that were in three different physiographic regions and near proposed future road construction projects. Level 1 included a Geographic Information System (GIS) based analysis of watersheds and appropriate spatial data. Level 2 was a field reconnaissance survey of sites using evaluation criteria weighted with the pairwise comparison Analytical Hierarchy Process. Level 3 was an on-site evaluation of the highly ranked sites to verify the modeling approach. Results showed successful selection of suitable sites for combined wetland and stream mitigation banking. We found the framework to be an efficient and non-subjective way to identify and prioritize wetland and stream mitigation banking sites and has direct applications for other states or regions.

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Acknowledgements

This research project was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, and the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways. We thank Neal Carte and Norse Angus (West Virginia Division of Highways) for providing data, contacts, support, and for reviewing this manuscript. We recognize the following individuals for assistance with field data collection, interpretation, and technical support: Collin Balcombe, Jerri Bonner, Scott Copen, Donald Gray, Mark Hepner, Jeff Keaton, Seth Lemley, and Ryan Ward. We also sincerely appreciate the comments and suggestions provided by three anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Michael P. Strager.

Appendices

Appendix A. Evaluation criteria used to evaluate potential wetland mitigation banking sites during Level 2 reconnaissance surveys

Ecological factors

Site hydrologic inputs and hydrologic regimes

Groundwater input

 

Scale Factor
5 High probability of high seasonal groundwater table throughout the growing season
3 Moderate probability of high seasonal groundwater table during the growing season
1 High probability of high seasonal groundwater table only during winter and spring periods
0 High probability of no high seasonal groundwater table

Overbank Flooding

 

Scale Factor
5 High probability of a regular flooding cycle; physical evidence of flooding regime
3 High probability of regular flooding with minor construction
1 High probability of regular flooding with major construction
0 Low probability of flooding even with construction

Surface Runoff

 

Scale Factor
5 High probability that adequate surface runoff occurs on the site
3 High probability of adequate surface runoff with minor construction
1 High probability of adequate surface runoff with major construction
0 Low probability of adequate surface runoff even with construction

Existing Land Cover

 

Scale Factor
5 Highly disturbed (i.e. reclaimed mining land)
3 Open agricultural land (i.e. pasture, cropland, naturalized meadow)
1 Agricultural land with scattered wood lots
0 Wooded (shrub or forest) or developed land

Wetland Occurrences

 

Scale Factor
5 Indicators present for historic wetlands on or adjacent to site
3 Presence of wetlands on project site or on adjacent sites
0 No wetlands or evidence of historic wetlands present on-site or on adjacent sites

Wooded Buffer

 

Scale Factor
5 Present and intact (>100 m) on all perimeters
3 Present and intact on more than 50% of the site perimeter
1 Present and intact on less than 50% of the site perimeter
0 Absent on all perimeters

Water Quality

 

Scale Factor
5 No impairments of water sources
3 Moderately impaired water sources
0 Strongly impaired water sources

Value of site for wildlife habitat

On-site Wildlife Habitat Value

 

Scale Factor
5 Disturbed (i.e. mining land)
3 Active agricultural land: cropland or pasture
1 Mixed land uses or discontinuous single natural community
0 Diverse mosaic of natural communities or continuous single natural community

Surrounding Wildlife Habitat Value

 

Scale Factor
5 Multiple habitat types juxtaposed for easy movement and access by terrestrial and aquatic species
3 Single continuous natural community suitable for select species
1 Fragmented patches of habitat types or fragmented single natural community creating difficult access and exposed movement corridors
0 Lack of habitat structure and variability; site dominated by open water, bare ground, or developed areas

Possibility of on-site biotic recolonization

Possibility of Hydrophytic Recolonization

 

Scale Factor
5 Presence of hydrophytic vegetation on-site and on adjacent sites
3 Presence of hydrophytic vegetation adjacent to site
0 Absence of wetland vegetation in all settings

Possibility of Wildlife Recolonization

Scale Factor
5 Presence of wetlands within 50 m of site
3 Presence of wetlands within 100 m of site
1 Presence of wetlands within 200 m of site
0 No wetlands adjacent to site

Engineering design and construction factors

Size of Site

 

Scale Factor
5 Potential for site development in excess of two times the minimum size requirement
3 Potential for site development of up to two times the minimum size requirement
1 Sufficient—meets minimum size requirement
0 Inadequate—does not meet minimum size requirement

Potential for Expansion with Design Flexibility

 

Scale Factor
5 Excellent flexible design capacity to support future expansion with contiguous functional wetland habitats within drainage basin
3 Some flexible design capacity to support future expansion with contiguous functional wetland habitats within drainage basin
0 No flexible design capacity to support future expansion with contiguous functional wetland habitats within drainage basin

Excavation

 

Scale Factor
5 No excavation required
4 <3 feet on average
3 3–6 feet on average
2 6–10 feet on average
1 10–15 feet on average
0 >15 feet on average

Topography

 

Scale Factor
5 Flat
4 Gently rolling
3 Moderately rolling
2 Rolling
1 Steep
0 Very steep

Construction Access

 

Scale Factor
5 Completely accessible by all equipment
4 Completely accessible by minor equipment
3 Partially accessible by all equipment
2 Partially accessible by minor equipment
1 Access can only be accomplished through major construction
0 Inaccessible

Constructability

 

Scale Factor
5 High potential
4 Some minor problems with construction
3 Constructible with extensive planning
2 Less constructible, greater likelihood of construction difficulties
1 Construction difficult, high risk of failure
0 Not feasible or practical

Construction Intrusion into Adjacent Habitats

 

Scale Factor
5 Low potential for impacts to adjacent areas or impacts are to poor quality habitats
3 Moderate potential for impacts requiring temporary disturbance and restoration
0 High potential for impacts creating permanent disturbance to off-site areas

Anthropogenic factors

Potential Degradation due to External and Internal Factors

 

Scale Factor
5 Site without intrusive adjacent land uses and impairing in situ factors
3 Site with the potential for intrusive adjacent land uses and/or impairing in situ factors
1 Site with some evidence of intrusive adjacent land uses and/or impairing in situ factors
0 Site with strong evidence of intrusive adjacent land uses and/or impairing in situ factors

Archaeological Resource Potential

 

Scale Factor
5 Confirmed absence of significant archaeological site within or near mitigation site
4 Confirmed absence of significant archaeological site within site
3 Probable absence of a significant archaeological site within mitigation site
2 Probable presence of archaeological site, significance unknown
1 Probable presence of a significant archaeological site within mitigation site
0 Confirmed presence of significant archaeological site within mitigation site

Probable Number of Property Owners Affected

 

Scale Factor
5 Single property owner
3 Two property owners
0 More than two property owners

Appropriateness of Adjacent Land Use

 

Scale Factor
5 Natural landscape with mature or developing forest cover
4 Extensive agricultural land
3 Mixed natural landscape and agricultural land
2 Mixed natural and residential land
1 Mostly residential land
0 Mostly densely developed commercial/industrial land

Prime Farmland

 

Scale Factor
5 Absence of Prime Farmland soils
3 Possible presence of Prime Farmland soils
0 Presence of Prime Farmland soils

Appendix B. Evaluation criteria used to evaluate potential stream mitigation banking sites during Level 2 reconnaissance surveys

Ecological factors

Incision

 

Scale Factor
5 Top of bank height/bankfull height > 2.0
4 Top of bank height/bankfull height = 1.76–2.0
3 Top of bank height/bankfull height = 1.51–1.75
2 Top of bank height/bankfull height = 1.26–1.5
1 Top of bank height/bankfull height = 1.01–1.25
0 Top of bank height/bankfull height = 1.0

Relative Channel Width

 

Scale Factor
5 Low flow width to toe of bank width = 0.59–0.5
4 Low flow width to toe of bank width = 0.69–0.6
3 Low flow width to toe of bank width = 0.79–0.7
2 Low flow width to toe of bank width = 0.89–0.8
1 Low flow width to toe of bank width = 0.99–0.9
0 Low flow width to toe of bank width = 1

Bank Erosion

 

Scale Factor
5 Greater than 80% of channel banks are eroded
4 61–80% of channel banks are eroded
3 41–60% of channel banks are eroded
2 21–40% of channel banks are eroded
1 20% or less of channel banks are eroded
0 No erosion present on channel banks

Bank Vegetation

 

Scale Factor
5 Less than 20% of banks are vegetated
4 20–39% of banks are vegetated
3 40–59% of banks are vegetated
2 60–79% of banks are vegetated
1 80–99% of banks are vegetated
0 100% of banks are vegetated

Sediment Deposition

 

Scale Factor
5 Greater than 80% of bed has deposition
4 61–80% of bed has deposition
3 41–60% of bed has deposition
2 21–40% of bed has deposition
1 20% or less of bed has deposition
0 No deposition present on channel bed

Stage of Channel Evolution

 

Scale Factor
5 V Aggradation stage
4 IV Threshold Stage
3 III Degradation
2 II Constructed Stage
1 VI Restabilization
0 I Pre-modified Stage

Engineering design and construction factors

Total Reach Length

 

Scale Factor
5 Greater than 6,000 LF
4 5000–5,900 LF
3 4,000–4,900 LF
2 3,000–3,900 LF
1 2,000–2,900 LF
0 1,000–1,900 LF

Private Property Owners

 

Scale Factor
5 No private landowners along reach
4 One private landowner per 1000 LF
3 Two private landowners per 1000 LF
2 Three private landowners per 1000 LF
1 Four private landowners per 1000 LF
0 Five or more private landowners per 1000 LF

Construction Access

 

Scale Factor
5 Fully accessible by all equipment
4 Partially accessible by all equipment
3 Accessible by small equipment
2 Some construction necessary
1 Access can only be accomplished through major construction
0 Inaccessible

Constructability

 

Scale Factor
5 High potential for constructability
4 Some minor problems with construction
3 Constructible with extensive planning
2 Great likelihood of construction difficulties
1 Construction difficult, high risk of failure
0 Not feasible for construction

Bed Material

 

Scale Factor
5 Gravel bed material (D50 = 2–64 mm)
4 Cobble bed material (D50 = 64–256 mm)
3 Sand bed material (D50 = 0.062–2 mm)
2 Silt-Clay bed material (D50 < 0.062 mm)
1 Boulder bed material (D50 = 256–2048 mm)
0 Bedrock bed material (D50 > 2048 mm)

Construction Intrusion into Adjacent Habitat

 

Scale Factor
1 No functional wetlands adjacent to the site
0 Functional wetlands present adjacent to site

Anthropogenic factors

Educational Value

 

Scale Factor
5 High potential for educational benefit
3 Moderate potential for educational benefit
0 Low potential for educational benefit

Recreational Value

 

Scale Factor
5 High potential for recreational benefit
3 Moderate potential for recreational benefit
0 Low potential for recreational benefit

Archaeological Resource Potential

 

Scale Factor
5 Confirmed absence of significant archaeological site
3 Probable absence of archeological site
1 Probable presence of archaeological site
0 Confirmed presence of archaeological site

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Strager, M.P., Anderson, J.T., Osbourne, J.D. et al. A three-tiered framework to select, prioritize, and evaluate potential wetland and stream mitigation banking sites. Wetlands Ecol Manage 19, 1–18 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11273-010-9194-y

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Keywords

  • Wetland and Stream Banking Site Selection
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Prioritization Framework