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What is Environmental Mitigation?

August 31, 2011

My husband and I took a walk along the sea wall on S.Roosevelt Blvd. today and noticed some work going on.  According to the sign, this is the “Houseboat Row Seagrass Restoration Project.” The sign claims this is a mitigation project.  I had heard about “mitigation” before, namely after the BP disaster, but I didn’t really understand how it worked. I decided to do a little research.

Environmental mitigation is complicated business. Essentially, it means that a developer which degrades or destroys a natural resource must restore ecological balance by doing something nice for the environment, preferably kind of nearby. Entities called “mitigation banks” restore wetlands and preserve habitats to use as “mitigation credits” toward development in other areas.

Though mitigation is better than nothing, experts agree that whenever possible, it is best to protect and preserve already active, viable ecosystems. Critics of mitigation banks claim that they are often used to provide loopholes for unnecessary development in sensitive habitat, and they may offer habitat of lesser value to the environment as a whole.

The writers of Report on Effectiveness of Mitigation Banking in Florida seem to have come to a similar conclusion. The report states that many mitigation areas are fragmented by roadways, towers, or other human conveniences which harm the wildlife attempting to use the area. The scientists state, “A more realistic outlook on mitigation outcomes would probably reduce the amount of potential credits allocated for a particular site.” In other words, mitigation does NOT result in zero net loss of wildlife habitat.

The mitigation project on S. Roosevelt is compliments of an engineering and architecture firm called Corzo Castella Carballo Thompson Salman. According to their website: “C3TS staff are providing the construction oversight and monitoring of the two mitigation areas (Houseboat Row, Key West and Dove Creek Wildlife and Environmental Area, Key Largo) associated with the expansion of the North Roosevelt Boulevard. Additionally, we will conduct the post-construction monitoring to evaluate the success and sustained viability of the restored communities.  If necessary, C3TS will make recommendations for any site corrections necessary to achieve the mitigation plans objectives.”

Anyway, it will be nice to observe seagrass beds from the bike path on S. Roosevelt. I hope they will fare well in a such a frequently fished, kayaked, and littered into area, so close to a busy road and storm runoff pipes. I will be curious to see what sort of wildlife, if any, eventually decides to inhabit the area or use it as feeding grounds.

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