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9VAC25-210-116. Compensation.

A. No net loss. Compensatory mitigation for project impacts shall be sufficient to achieve no net loss of existing wetland acreage and no net loss of functions in all surface waters. Compensatory mitigation ratios appropriate for the type of aquatic resource impacted and the type of compensation provided shall be applied to permitted impacts to help meet this requirement. Credit may be given for preservation of upland buffers already protected under other ordinances to the extent that additional protection and water quality and fish and wildlife resource benefits are provided.

B. Practicable and ecologically preferable compensation alternatives.

1. An analysis shall be required to justify that permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation is ecologically preferable to the purchase of mitigation bank credits or in-lieu fee program credits, if such credits are available in sufficient quantity for the project at the projected time of need. The analysis shall address the ability of the permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation site or sites to replace lost wetland acreage and functions or lost stream functions and water quality benefits. The analysis comparing the impacted and compensation site or sites may use a method that assesses water quality or habitat metrics, such as that required by 9VAC25-210-80 C, or a method that assesses such criteria as water quality benefits, distance from impacts, hydrologic source and regime, watershed, vegetation type, soils, constructability, timing of compensation versus impact, property acquisition, and cost.

2. The applicant shall demonstrate that permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation can be protected in perpetuity through a protective mechanism approved by the Department of Environmental Quality, such as, but not limited to, a conservation easement held by a third party in accordance with the Virginia Conservation Easement Act ( 10.1-1009 et seq. of the Code of Virginia) or the Virginia Open-Space Act ( 10.1-1700 et seq. of the Code of Virginia), a duly recorded declaration of restrictive covenants, or other protective instrument.

C. Compensatory mitigation proposals shall be evaluated as follows:

1. The purchase of mitigation bank credits and in-lieu fee program credits when available shall in most cases be deemed the ecologically preferable form of compensation for project impacts. However, permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation may be considered when the applicant satisfactorily demonstrates that permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation is ecologically preferable in accordance with subdivision B 1 of this section.

2. Compensatory mitigation for unavoidable wetland impacts may be met through the following options, which are preferred in the following sequence: mitigation banking, in-lieu fee program, and permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation. However, the appropriate compensatory mitigation option for project impacts shall be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, in terms of replacement of wetland acreage and functions and the greatest likelihood of success. When considering options for providing the required compensatory mitigation, DEQ shall consider the type and location options in the following order:

a. Mitigation bank credits;

b. In-lieu fee program credits;

c. Permittee-responsible mitigation under a watershed approach;

d. Permittee-responsible mitigation through on-site and in-kind mitigation;

e. Permittee-responsible mitigation through off-site or out-of-kind mitigation;

f. Restoration, enhancement, or preservation of upland buffers adjacent to wetlands when utilized in conjunction with subdivision 2 a, 2 b, 2 c, 2 d, or 2 e of this subsection and when consistent with subsection A of this section; and

g. Preservation of wetlands when utilized in conjunction with subdivision 2 a, 2 b, 2 c, 2 d, or 2 e of this subsection and when consistent with subsection A of this section.

3. Compensatory mitigation for unavoidable stream impacts may be met through the following options, which are preferred in the following sequence: mitigation banking, in-lieu fee program, and permittee-responsible mitigation. However, the appropriate compensatory mitigation option for project impacts shall be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, in terms of replacement of stream functions and water quality benefits and the greatest likelihood of success. One factor in determining the required compensation shall be an analysis of stream impacts utilizing a stream impact assessment methodology approved by the board. When considering options for providing the required compensatory mitigation, DEQ shall consider the type and location options in the following order:

a. Mitigation bank stream credits;

b. In-lieu fee program credits;

c. Permittee-responsible mitigation under a watershed approach;

d. Permittee-responsible mitigation through on-site and in-kind mitigation;

e. Permittee-responsible mitigation through off-site or out-of-kind mitigation;

f. Restoration, enhancement, or preservation of upland buffers adjacent to streams when utilized in conjunction with subdivision 3 a, 3 b, 3 c, 3 d, or 3 e of this subsection and when consistent with subsection A of this section; and

g. Preservation of stream channels and adjacent riparian buffers when utilized in conjunction with subdivision 3 a, 3 b, 3 c, 3 d, or 3 e of this subsection and when consistent with subsection A of this section.

4. Compensatory mitigation for open water impacts may be required to protect state waters and fish and wildlife resources from significant impairment, as appropriate. Compensation shall not be required for permanent or temporary impacts to open waters that are identified as palustrine by the Cowardin classification method, but compensation may be required when such open waters are located in areas of karst topography in Virginia and are formed by the natural solution of limestone.

D. In-lieu fee program approval.

1. The board may approve the use of a program by issuing a VWP permit for a specific project or by taking an enforcement action and following applicable public notice and comment requirements, or by granting approval of a program after publishing a notice of its intent in the Virginia Register of Regulations and accepting public comments on its approval for a minimum of 30 days.

2. Where a program is mandated by the Code of Virginia to be implemented and such program is approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the program may be used as deemed appropriate for any VWP permit or enforcement action.

3. An approved program must meet the following criteria:

a. Demonstration of a no net loss policy in terms of wetland acreage and functions or stream functions and water quality benefits by adoption of operational goals or objectives for restoration, creation, enhancement, or preservation;

b. DEQ approval of each site for inclusion in the program;

c. A commitment to provide annual reports to the board detailing contributions received and acreage and type of wetlands or streams preserved, created or restored in each watershed with those contributions, as well as the compensatory mitigation credits contributed for each watershed of project impact;

d. A mechanism to establish fee amounts that will ensure each contribution will be adequate to compensate for the wetland acreage and functions or stream functions and water quality benefits lost in the impacted watershed; and

e. Such terms and conditions as the board deems necessary to ensure a no net loss of wetland acreage and functions or stream functions and water quality benefits from permitted projects providing compensatory mitigation.

4. Approval may be granted for up to 10 years and may be renewed by the board upon a demonstration that the program has met the criteria in subdivision 3 of this subsection.

E. Use of mitigation banks. The use of mitigation banks for compensating project impacts shall be deemed appropriate if the following criteria are met:

1. The bank meets the criteria and conditions found in  62.1-44.15:23 of the Code of Virginia;

2. The bank is ecologically preferable to practicable on-site and off-site individual compensatory mitigation options;

3. The banking instrument, if approved after July 1, 1996, has been approved by a process that involved public review and comment in accordance with federal guidelines; and

4. The applicant provides verification to DEQ of purchase of the required amount of credits.

F. For permittee-responsible mitigation, the final compensatory mitigation plan shall include complete information on all components of the conceptual compensatory mitigation plan detailed in 9VAC25-210-80 B 1 m and:

1. For wetlands, the final compensation plan for review and approval by DEQ shall also include a summary of the type and acreage of existing wetland impacts anticipated during the construction of the compensation site and the proposed compensation for these impacts; a site access plan; a monitoring plan, including proposed success criteria, monitoring goals, and the location of photo-monitoring stations, monitoring wells, vegetation sampling points, and reference wetlands or streams if available; an abatement and control plan for undesirable plant species; an erosion and sedimentation control plan; a construction schedule; and the final protective mechanism for the compensation site or sites, including all surface waters and buffer areas within its boundaries. The approved protective mechanism shall be recorded in the chain of title to the property, or an equivalent instrument for government-owned lands, and proof of recordation shall be submitted to DEQ prior to commencing impacts in surface waters.

2. For streams, the final compensation plan for review and approval by DEQ shall also include a site access plan; an erosion and sedimentation control plan, if appropriate; an abatement and control plan for undesirable plant species; a monitoring plan, including a monitoring and reporting schedule, monitoring design, and methodologies for success; proposed success criteria; location of photo-monitoring stations, vegetation sampling points, survey points, bank pins, scour chains, and reference streams; a plan view drawing depicting the pattern and all compensation measures being employed; a profile drawing; cross-sectional drawing or drawings of the proposed compensation stream; and the final protective mechanism for the compensation site or sites, including all surface waters and buffer areas within its boundaries. The approved protective mechanism shall be recorded in the chain of title to the property, or an equivalent instrument for government-owned lands, and proof of recordation shall be submitted to DEQ prior to commencing impacts in surface waters.

Statutory Authority

62.1-44.15 of the Code of Virginia; 401 of the Clean Water Act (33 USC 1251 et seq.).

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 23, Issue 21, eff. July 25, 2007; amended, Virginia Register Volume 24, Issue 9, eff. February 6, 2008; Volume 32, Issue 21, eff. August 2, 2016.


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