Environmental Review Toolkit
Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

Alabama Department of Transportation

Alabama's Wetland Mitigation Program

Talk about growth. The wetland bank mitigation program developed by the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has soared from one 75-acre bank in 1992 to 13 banks in 2006--a grand total of 5,422 acres. And banks have been set up in nearly all of Alabama's major river basins.

Since the acreage in the bank sites is so large, ALDOT can borrow credits from one site which has credits and loan them to another site which has none. Once a new bank site has been developed, the loan is repaid. Withdrawal credits established by resource agencies, FHWA, and ALDOT become available when certain success criteria are met. In other words, credits are freed up over time as newly created wetlands take root. Thanks to this dynamic process, ALDOT can know with near-certainty how many credits will be available as the bank sites mature.

longleaf pine savannah
Longleaf Pine Savannah on acidic water-logged soils. (Bill Lea)

For years ALDOT has been converting low farmland to coastal pine savannahs or inland forested wetlands, achieving a 3:1 ratio in wetland replacement. These efforts are preserving rare plant and animal species and providing educational and public-service opportunities.

For example, the 450-acre Sipsey River Swamp in the Tombigbee River Basin has been designated as one of Alabama's 10 natural wonders; the 42-acre, two-island Prairie Creek site on the Warrior River is large enough to be manageable, useful habitat all by itself; visitors to the 470-acre Jackson site in the Tennessee River Basin can see wild turkeys as well as beaver, waterfowl, and white tail deer; on the 100-acre Canoe Creek site in the Coosa River Basin vegetated-bottom shallow ponds have been constructed and hydrology has been restored by blocking human-made drains and planting hardwoods; and the 20-acre Styx River site in the Lower Mobile River Basin supports three different varieties of pitcher plants, and the unique Venus flytrap (competing vegetation was reduced using a Kershaw machine designed for clearing railroad rights of way).

ALDOT's wetland mitigation banks are also community and county resources. For example, wheelchair accessible hunting will be possible on the 515-acre Dozier mitigation area in the Conecuh River Basin and the Prairie Creek site; and the 1,300-acre Trotman bank in the Alabama River Basin will become an ecological and archaeological park for Montgomery County, thanks to the planning efforts of universities, the local water board, and city, county, and state government.

The ALDOT's wetland banking successes began with an April 1996 agreement signed by ALDOT, FHWA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Alabama Department of Conservation, and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. As part of this agreement, a Mitigation Bank Review Team (MBRT), chaired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was formed. The MBRT's role ranges from inspecting existing and potential banks to approving mitigation, monitoring, and any long-term management plans proposed by ALDOT.

ALDOT's role? The Department manages the wetland sites in perpetuity or donates the properties to a resource agency. So in early 1995 when the Morgan bank had used up its credits, ALDOT donated the property to USFWS to manage as part of the Service's adjacent Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Area.

For more information, contact John Shill, shillj@dot.state.al.us

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