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Joint Tea- 21 Guidance Advances Wetlands Protection - Federally Funded Highway Projects Will Replace Impacted Wetlands

Release Date: 07/11/2003
Contact Information:

Contacts: John Millett, EPA, 202-564-7842;
David Hewitt, USACE, 202-761-0289; Lori Irving, FHWA, 202-366-2996

(07/11/03) The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the EPA, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) today issued guidance that will ensure the replacement of wetlands impacted by federal-aid highway projects and enhance regulatory decision-making. “Federal Guidance on the Use of the TEA-21 Preference for Mitigation Banking to Fulfill Mitigation Requirements under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act” was jointly developed by the three agencies as part of the Bush administration’s National Wetlands Mitigation Action Plan to achieve no net loss of America’s wetlands.

“We’re pleased to be part of fulfilling the first action item in the Bush Administration's wetlands mitigation action plan that helps preserve the environment,” said FHWA Administrator Mary E. Peters. “This guidance will lead to greater understanding between the agencies and simplify the way we mitigate a project’s impact on wetlands.”

“This guidance further supports market-based approaches to achieving the best environmental results for aquatic resource protection,” EPA Assistant Administrator for Water G. Tracy Mehan III said.

“This action is consistent with the Corps’ Environmental Operating Principles,” said Major General Robert H. Griffin, Director of the Civil Works Program. “The preference for mitigation banking ensures timely permit decisions. This represents a win-win approach to balancing critical infrastructure needs with the preservation of valuable aquatic resources.”

The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) established a preference for mitigation banking to compensate for unavoidable losses to wetlands or other natural habitat caused by transportation projects receiving federal assistance under Title 23 of the U.S. Code. The preference relates to the eligibility of federal-aid funds for wetland compensatory mitigation under both the National Highway System and the Surface Transportation Program. The guidance will assist agency field personnel and the sponsors of federal-aid highway projects by clarifying the factors to be considered in implementing that preference consistent with existing regulations and policy.

The National Wetlands Mitigation Action Plan affirms the administration’s commitment to the goal of “no net loss” of the nation’s wetlands. It outlines a series of steps to be taken over three years to improve mitigation site selection, ensure more effective performance monitoring, and develop interagency mitigation databases which accurately reflect the performance of compensatory mitigation sites. The Action Plan focuses on achieving these objectives through the efforts of several government programs, including the Clean Water Act Section 404 program and various non-regulatory and private initiatives. The Action Plan also emphasizes a watershed approach to mitigation based on replacement of impacted or lost aquatic functions and values.

The Action Plan commits the agencies to develop additional guidance to provide better mitigation decisions, such as considerations for on-site versus off-site and in-kind versus out-of-kind mitigation by the end of 2003, and the appropriate use of vegetated buffers and preservation by 2004. The guidance will be available online at: