Missouri creates wetlands bank

SIKESTON, Mo. — The Missouri Department of Transportation's Southeast District recently completed an innovative project that doesn't include asphalt or pavement, but will speed along transportation projects and save tax dollars.

Construction finished on 140 acres of wetlands near Otter Slough in Stoddard County will bring about these big benefits.

Currently, when MoDOT building impacts a wetland, the department has to replace it. For every acre disturbed, a new acre must be built in its place. Instead of replacing small numbers of wetlands when disturbed, MoDOT has partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Missouri Department of Conservation and Missouri Department of Natural Resources to build a larger area at once and then will use it as a "bank."

Instead of building an acre here and there along a project, those impacted acres can simply be deducted from the bank.

"The economics are much better this way," said district engineer Scott Meyer. "It could cost the department $15,000 to $20,000 an acre to buy and develop a wetland on the project site. Creating a larger bank reduces the cost to approximately $3,000 an acre. We're spending money now to save money in the future and keep the projects moving forward."

MoDOT is working with the Corps of Engineers to determine the final details of the agreement, including the service area. The service area is the acceptable locations from which MoDOT can deduct impacted wetlands from this bank.

"We're hoping to get all of the Southeast District included," said Meyer, "which would be very beneficial for us if we can use this large wetland for projects throughout our 14-county area."

The site marks the first wetland mitigation bank completed in Missouri. Another bank is underway in Chillicothe, Mo.

"MoDOT has said these are tight budget times for our department, and this is one more way we can save Missourian's money and channel more of our resources to taking care of our transportation system," said Meyer.

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