A federal regulation that requires developers to pay more to offset state wetlands that are lost in new construction projects could seriously hinder development in Calcasieu Parish and other areas, District 1 Police Juror Shannon Spell said on Tuesday. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Thursday, October 04, 2012 10:37 AM
A federal regulation requiring developers to pay more to offset state wetlands lost in new construction projects could seriously hinder development in Calcasieu Parish and other areas, District 1 Police Juror Shannon Spell said Tuesday.
Under the Modified Charleston Method — approved by the Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans District in May 2011 — developers may have to restore up to three acres of wetlands for every one acre lost. Spell said it could significantly boost the cost of certain projects, and may hurt other efforts, like expanding drainage districts within the parish.
“If we’re doubling our mitigation costs, it’s going to have an extremely negative impact to economies in Calcasieu Parish and others in Louisiana,” he said. “There has to be a balance somewhere.”
The Modified Charleston Method is altered from a plan developed several years ago by corps officials in Charleston, S.C. Before it was approved, developers had to restore up to 1.5 acres of Louisiana wetlands for every one acre lost. According to Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act, wetlands that are lost in any type of development — whether private, commercial or government — must be restored.
According to a report issued in June by the Greater New Orleans Inc. Regional Economic Alliance, the average mitigation cost per project has increased by $60,000 since the MCM was approved. Mitigation application permits are down 17 percent.
Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, filed an amendment to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for the 2013 fiscal year. It prevents the corps from enforcing the MCM for a year. The House passed the legislation in June with a 255-165 vote.
The legislation cleared a Senate committee, but no action has been taken by the full Senate because Congress passed a continuing appropriations resolution in September that will help fund the federal government through March 27.
Members of Landry’s staff plan to meet Thursday with Col. Edward Fleming, commander and district engineer for the corps’ New Orleans District, to discuss changing the MCM to reduce the financial impact on developers. Landry said in an email issued Tuesday that “massively increasing the costs of our needed projects is not the answer.”
“I continue to work with my Senate colleagues and the corps to ensure that, one way or another, the Modified Charleston Method is done away with,” he said.