Presenter: Jack Bauer
Commission Agenda Item No. 12
TXDOT – TPWD Mitigation Agreement
I. Executive Summary: The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) have entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) that formalizes a partnership in the development and mitigation of natural resource impacts anticipated with the construction of new interstate highways (IH) and Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC) transportation projects. TPWD will identify and develop mitigation areas and provide mitigation credits to TXDOT to offset federally regulated natural resource impacts associated with these large transportation projects.
II. Discussion: TPWD and TXDOT have cooperated to develop three wetland mitigation banks since 1990 that provide the opportunity to aggregate transportation project construction impacts to wetlands and endangered species at single large conservation areas within the Tyler, Beaumont, Houston and Matagorda districts of TXDOT. A mitigation bank is an area permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers where a permit applicant develops and improves wetland habitats with the resulting improvements quantified and identified as wetland credits that can offset wetland impacts anticipated from development. This step of mitigation would occur only after design of a development project demonstrates avoidance and minimization of wetland impacts. In the past, transportation projects have been notoriously difficult to effectively mitigate for wetland impacts because of their linear nature; small, postage stamp mitigation areas have resulted that are not functional for fish and wildlife. Mitigation banking offers a regulatory process to aggregate impacts of a number of projects to a single mitigation area on an ecologically significant scale.
Under the new MOU, which supplements the existing MOU for day-to-day project review, TPWD agrees to identify large tracts of land that are suitable for use as mitigation banks and to obtain required mitigation banking agreements from the appropriate agencies. TXDOT agrees to give first priority to purchasing mitigation credits from the banks created under this MOU for all transportation projects requiring such mitigation. TPWD expects to involve the private mitigation banking and investment industries and non-profit conservation organizations in developing these facilities. TPWD will make mitigation credits available to TXDOT for transportation projects at a competitive cost, which will include recovery of acquisition costs and funding for restoration and a management endowment. Where practical, new mitigation areas will be developed to meet strategic land conservation and public recreation objectives defined in the Land and Water Resources Conservation and Recreation Plan.
The partnership with TXDOT is expected to provide cost savings in transportation development because of the economy of scale in aggregation of mitigation requirements, cost savings and predictability in determination of mitigation costs and construction schedules for transportation projects, and extensive ecosystem improvements to adversely impacted and fragmented habitats, watersheds and water quality.