|Seal Trust Mitigation Agreement|
Development in wetland areas is generally prohibited by law. However, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) can approve projects that affect wetlands if the projects benefit the public and the wetland impacts are avoided, minimized, and mitigated. When on-site mitigation options are not available, the Corps may require the developer to pay a “fee in-lieu” of mitigation. The project mitigation responsibility and these “in-lieu fees” are then transferred to a designated in-lieu-fee sponsor to conduct wetland restoration, creation, enhancement, or preservation projects. Under an agreement with the Corps, the Southeast Alaska Land Trust (SEAL Trust) is authorized to receive fees-in-lieu of mitigation.
SEAL Trust places all mitigation funds it receives into a separate account used primarily for preservation of wetlands, other aquatic resources, and important adjacent upland buffers. Before SEAL Trust invests these funds in a project, SEAL Trust consults with a team of resource agency experts and the Corps to ensure that the proposed project advances their program goals.
To date, SEAL Trust has used “in-lieu fees” to preserve: wetlands bordering the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge in Juneau; tidal flats in Juneau, Sitka and Haines; an estuary near Petersburg; riverine wetlands along the Indian River in Sitka; riverine and other wetlands along Montana Creek in Juneau; and, a riparian/wetland area on Hilda Creek near Juneau. SEAL Trust is currently partnering with other organizations and agencies in pursuit of important preservation projects around the region.
The rules governing the in-lieu fee program changed significantly in June, 2008 with heightened attention paid to compensatory mitigation requirements. The 2008 regulations, the Alaska District Regulatory Guidance Letter (rescinded in 2014), an EPA-Corps summary, and other important agency links can be found in the links to the right.
In response to the 2008 regulations, SEAL Trust worked with the Corps and other resource agencies to upgrade its existing in-lieu fee agreement with the Corps. The 2011 Instrument between SEAL Trust and the Corps for the SEAL Trust In-Lieu Fee Program, Compensation Planning Framework, and the original 1998 agreement between SEAL Trust and the Corps can be found in the links to the right.