Police Juror worried wetland regulation will hurt development

By By John Guidroz / American Press

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.