Saving Our Best Streams
One developer that has taken advantage of the Trust Fund is the Missouri Department of Transportation. Buck Brooks, wetland coordinator for the Transportation Department, oversees his agency’s compliance with Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. “The Trust Fund has definitely been a good option for us in terms of mitigating for small impacts, especially when we have been unable to do on-site mitigation,” says Brooks.
“For example, if a road is going to be widened, a culvert under a road at a stream crossing has to be widened as well. Extending a culvert on a small stream will have a small but definite impact and needs to be accounted for. But sometimes it has been difficult to find a landowner willing to sell a small amount of land adjacent to where we have made an impact for on-site mitigation, and even if we can find the land, we are not resource managers. Managing more land and monitoring the success of the mitigation takes staff time away from what we are tasked to do for Missourians—provide transportation.”
Putting the Fees to Work for Streams
Since 2000, the Foundation has collected more than $4 million in mitigation fees and put these funds to work restoring and protecting high priority streams like LaBarque Creek and many others around the state. Missouri Department of Conservation staff, often working with partner groups or landowners, submit proposals to request Trust Fund dollars for stream projects. These projects have included replacing low-water bridges with fish-friendly crossings, acquiring land, restoring eroded banks, fencing cattle out of streams and buying or accepting donated conservation easements in riparian areas. A committee of Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation board members and Conservation Department staff reviews projects before they are approved by the Foundation.
Each stream project done on private land requires a minimum 30-year commitment, whereby Trust Fund dollars pay a landowner for restoration, enhancement or other expenses. The commitment is backed by a binding agreement or an easement along the stream. The Conservation Department holds the easements, and staff monitor success of a project and compliance with the terms of the easement.
Land acquisition projects for public ownership to preserve unique streams must be approved by the Conservation Commission. Trust Fund dollars have added hundreds of acres of riparian forest and hundreds of feet of stream frontage throughout the state, including along LaBarque Creek, the Big Piney River and Mill Creek, a blue ribbon trout