|Posted on Monday, October 13, 2003|
We Mean Business. Illinois Business.
Wetland bank offers developers chance to buy remediation, keep project on track
SMITHTON - Leland Nollau has the answer for developers who want to delegate their wetlands-related worries away.
The long-time residential developer and highway landscaper is developing a tract of a different sort: a wetland bank.
Those who have heard of the concept of a wetland bank may think it's a way for commercial businesses to buy acreage to replace any designated wetlands they disturb in the construction process. You're close: rather than buying acreage, businesses buy credits from someone like Nollau, in exchange for paperwork from Nollau - via the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - stating they've met their wetlands mitigation requirements for that particular development.
In Illinois, the Leland Nollaus are few and far between. Scott Harding, director of wetland services for SCI Engineering Inc., says other than a few wetland banks located near Chicago, Nollau's Richland Creek Mitigation wetland bank is it as far as Southern Illinois is concerned.
"What makes this wetland bank especially unique," Harding said, " is that it also provides stream mitigation. Richland Creek Mitigation is the first wetland bank I know of in Illinois that also offers that."
Nollau's clients typically purchase credits for small parcels from the 26-acre wetlands bank territory, located behind one of Nollau's upscale residential developments along Illinois Route 159, roughly a half-hour's drive south of Belleville. The mitigation area includes the west fork of Richland Creek and is in the Richland Creek Basin.
Dierbergs Markets Inc. bought wetland bank credits (equivalent to seven-tenths of an acre) connected with the construction of its new Shiloh store and shopping center development, Nollau said. The cities of Belleville and Centralia are also "banking" customers of his, as are neighboring county highway departments.
"It's a tool for providing compensation, where someone banks credits - in this case, acres - that are available for sale to developers approaching the Army Corps of Engineers for a (wetlands-related) permit," Harding said. "Wetlands are protected under the (Federal) Clean Water Act, and the Corps is the first-stop clearinghouse for permitting. The Corps is the entity that specifically identifies what is and is not a wetland."
Harding said a wetland bank is an ideal alternative for a developer whose expertise lies in the type of project he is completing - a shopping center, for example - and not in wetlands requirements.
"Many developers would just as soon write a check to someone like Leland Nollau rather than get bogged down with creating a small wetlands mitigation area - often an acre or two or less - which could put them behind on completing their project."
SCI Engineering created a wetland bank a few years ago, Harding said, in Eureka, Mo. along Fox Creek.
Swansea-based Thouvenot, Wade & Moerchen Inc. has also worked as a consulting firm for Nollau's Richland Creek Mitigation bank.
The environmental advantage to the wetland bank, he said, is that a mitigation area that's 20 acres or more in scope creates a much richer wildlife habitat than does an acre here and an acre there. Nollau is planting large numbers of trees on the 26-acre tract. It is already a major gathering place for Canadian geese.
"The function of this size is much better," Harding said.
Nollau is responsible for maintaining the parcels for five years after the credit is purchased; at that time, he said, his firm, Richland Creek Mitigation LLC, plans to deed the property back to the city or county.
"We're really just getting started on it now," Nollau said. "We're still selling credits."