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DEVELOPER, GOVERNMENT AGENCIES LAUNCH WETLAND MITIGATION BANK

Release Date: 8/16/1995
Contact Information: Dave Shmidt, (415) 744-1578 Homer Perkins, U.S. Army COE, (415) 744-3276 Donna Hummel, U.S. FWS, (916) 979-2710x315 Caitlin Bean, CDFG, (707) 944-5570 Ilan Silberstein, (707) 571-7659

 (San Francisco) -- Three federal agencies and the California Department of Fish and Game, together with Sonoma County developer Ilan Silberstein, today launched the San Francisco Bay Area's first wetlands mitigation bank, a project that will streamline the issuance of development permits while creating and restoring ecologically valuable seasonal wetlands.  

     The mitigation bank creates an opportunity for developers. The 12-acre wetland restoration area, known as the Wikiup Mitigation Bank, will be used to offset losses of small, less valuable wetlands.  This will also shorten the process of getting a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, which often includes mitigation requirements designed to ensure no net loss of wetlands.

     Developers will benefit by having a ready-made mitigation project they can buy into.  At the same time, the environment will benefit from the creation or restoration of a larger, more ecologically valuable wetland, instead of many small isolated parcels.  Mr.  Silberstein, manager and principal partner of Wikiup Builders Limited Partnership, will manage the 12-acre wetland "bank" for the Partnership until all the mitigation credits are sold, and then turn it over to the California Department of Fish and Game for permanent management and protection.  

     Representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Department of Fish and Game, as well as Mr. Silberstein, have signed a Memorandum of Agreement that  officially launches the project.  The mitigation bank, in turn,

is an example of one method for implementing Sonoma County's Vernal Pool Ecosystem Preservation Plan.   The plan was developed by the Vernal Pool Task Force, comprised of farming, development, conservation and agency representatives.  The next step for the Task Force is to identify market-oriented conservation strategies for the Santa Rosa Plain's vernal pool ecosystems.

     "The creation of this mitigation bank shows it is possible to protect and enhance the environment and allow economic development," said Lieutenant Colonel Michael Walsh, District Engineer for the Corps' San Francisco District.  "It is another example of what can be done when government agencies and the public form a partnership to solve a problem."

     "Mitigation banks are in small supply and great demand," said Joel Medlin, Sacramento field office supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  "Projects like this one provide a real entrepreneurial boost to the preservation of vernal pools, a unique and rapidly diminishing Calfornia ecosystem.  This is a win for flora and fauna; it is also a model of how conservation and commerce need not be mutually exclusive."

     "This cooperation and creative problem-solving are exactly what are needed to protect wetlands while allowing needed economic development,"  said Jeff Rosenbloom, chief of wetlands and sediment management for U.S. EPA's western region.  "We are deeply appreciative of Mr. Silberstein's initiative to establish this mitigation bank."  

     "Mr. Silberstein's cooperation and willingness to undertake something that had not been tried before is to be commended," said Carl Wilcox, regional environmental services supervisor for the California Department of Fish and Game.  "Banks such as this are critical to streamlining the wetland permitting process at the local and federal level."

     "This is an example of what can be achieved when government and private developers get to know each other and create a trusting working relationship," said Ilan Silberstein.  "This is a win-win for both the developers and the environment."
 
     Under the Clean Water Act, projects involving the dredging and filling of wetlands normally require a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Such permits typically specify mitigation measures that must be taken to offset any environmental impacts that may result from a project.  

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