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Saving Our Best Streams

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 17, 2009

the state can relate to Meneau and LaBarque Creek watershed residents—we love our streams. But we also value our homes, sidewalks, bridges, businesses, schools and roads—the construction of which can harm the creeks and rivers we care about.

With any new development project, land will be disturbed and streams could be affected. Construction site erosion, dredging or other stream engineering can clog a section of stream with sediment and impact the movement of fish, or threaten the survival of other aquatic life. The federal Clean Water Act was designed to safeguard America’s water resources from developmental impacts, or require developers to mitigate, to make amends for unavoidable stream damage by providing for the protection or restoration of a stream somewhere else.

The U.S. Corps of Engineers is the federal agency responsible for issuing permits required under the Clean  Water Act’s Section 404, which regulates development activities that can impact streams and wetlands. An agreement signed in 2000 between the Corps and the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation allows the Foundation to collect mitigation fees from developers and use the funds to protect and restore streams in priority watersheds.

Paul Calvert, stream services program supervisor with the Conservation Department and Trust Fund Committee member, says, “The Trust Fund has helped developers get needed work done, and at the same time their mitigation fees have funded more than 55 projects around the state. The fees aren’t being spent randomly but very strategically in watersheds that, without protection or restoration, have the most to lose in terms of their biological diversity, fishing potential or because they provide a source of drinking water for people.”

A Voluntary and Wise Mitigation Option

Mitigation fees from developers to the Trust Fund usually range from $10,000 to $200,000, depending on the amount of damage from a project. That sounds like a lot of money, but it is often less than other mitigation options, or the future income lost by forgoing development. The fees are realistic considering the benefits that healthy streams provide to society.

“Mitigating through the Stream Stewardship Trust Fund is completely voluntary,” says Julius Wall, president of the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation. “Developers have other options in meeting their Clean Water Act obligations. But paying into the Trust Fund is often easier, less expensive and does the most good for conservation of high-quality and priority streams in Missouri.” In addition, the Foundation accepts all liability for the developer to fulfill the mitigation

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