Building credit by restoring wetlands - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Building credit by restoring wetlands

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Chippewa County (WQOW) - A Chippewa County company is applying to build a bank but it's without the bricks and mortar.

It's called a wetland mitigation bank and it's part of a program run through the DNR.

When a developer needs money for a project they'll often work with a bank, but if they're building near a wetland they'll be working with the DNR's wetland mitigation bank.

"In projects where impacts to wetlands can't be avoided, the wetland mitigation program is a way by which to offset those losses," says the director of the west central region of the DNR Dan Baumann.

Which means land owners can turn their property into a wetland and earn credits in the DNR's bank, like this 120 acre property in Chippewa County, which is worth about 104 wetland credits.

"Somebody has taken the initiative to create a wetland and by which have credits available for sale for somebody that is going to impact.  Typically in that same watershed or general location," says Baumann.

Then a developer looking to build on or near a wetland will work with the DNR on the other end of the exchange to find a solution where they won't damage more than they can conserve.

"You don't get to mitigation until you've gone through the avoidance and the minimize stage of this," says Baumann.

If there's no other option for a developer but to destroy a wetland, they'll have to purchase more acres of credits than they're destroying, thus leaving un-touched wetlands elsewhere.

"Wetlands are like mother nature's kidneys.  They really help with flood storage and water quality, those kinds of things.  So we're always looking to mitigate as close to the impact as possible," says Baumann.

Because if you impact a wetland the DNR wants to balance out the damage done.

Right now there's a shortage of wetland credits statewide, which means the DNR needs more companies like the one in Chippewa County to convert property to protected wetlands and earn credits to sell in the bank.

The Chippewa County site is worth more than 100 wetland credits, and any developers wanting to purchase those credits will have to pay whatever the current dollar value of credits are.

That's a fee on top of the price a developer would pay to purchase actual acres of land.

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