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VI. Other Programs

A. State Programs

Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve Program: One of the components of the RIM Reserve Program pays landowners to restore legally drained wetlands and adjacent uplands to their native condition.  In conjunction with the restoration, the state acquires a perpetual conservation easement on the land.  BWSR administers RIM Reserve at the state level while soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) implement the program at the local level.

In 1997, the wetland component of the program enrolled 1,070 acres of wetland.  This number jumped to 2,431 acres in 1998, primarily due to increased funding from partnerships with federal programs (the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and the Reinvest In Minnesota/Wetland Reserve Program partnership) that created additional restoration opportunities. CREP payments are financially more attractive and have allowed enrollment of additional adjacent uplands. As a result, enrollment acreage and wetland protection has increased without the need for an accompanying leap in restoration efforts.

In 1997, 632 acres of enrolled wetland areas were restored, involving 48 basins of types 2, 3, 4, and 6 wetlands at an average construction cost of $338 per acre. In 1998, 739 acres of enrolled wetlands, involving 54 basins, were restored with an average construction cost of $283 per acre.

The majority of restorations are located in the prairie pothole region of the state. Since the program began in 1986, it has restored about 25,140 acres of wetlands and adjacent uplands (including 1998 sign-up figures). Appendix H of this report provides the program’s yearly statistics for enrollment, demand and costs.*

Permanent Wetland Preserves (PWP) Program: This program, established by the Wetland Conservation Act, protects existing (not drained) wetlands through easement acquisition. Like RIM Reserve, it is administered by BWSR and implemented by the soil and water conservation districts at the local level.  Since the program began in 1992, it has acquired 269 easements, perpetually protecting 10,992 acres of at risk existing type 1, 2, 3 and 6 wetlands and surrounding upland at a cost of $6.6 million (average cost = $600/acre). 

Twelve PWP easements were taken in 1997 for a total of 534.5 acres of wetland and surrounding upland. In 1998, 14 PWP easements were taken for a total of 270 acres of wetland and surrounding upland.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT): MnDOT is required to mitigate any wetland losses or impacts that occur in conjunction with state highway projects.  The agency reported impacts to 59 acres with the replacement of 85 wetland acres in 1997. In 1998, MnDOT replaced impacts to 67.06 acres with 104.72 acres. From 1992 to 1998, MnDOT has impacted 280.79 acres and replaced them with 449.28 acres. 

MnDOT estimates its wetland replacement costs at $2,500 to $203,000 per acre for urban areas and from $600 to $106,000 per acre for outstate/rural areas.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR): Through the Public Waters Work Permit Program, the Department of Natural Resources regulates alteration of the course, current, or cross-section of type 3, 4, and 5 wetlands that are included on the Public Waters Inventory completed in the early 1980s.  In general, public waters are all water basins and watercourses that meet the criteria set forth in MN Statutes, Section 103G.005, subdivision 15. Public waters wetlands include all types 3, 4, and 5 wetlands (as defined in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Circular No. 39, 1971 edition) that are 10 acres or more in size in unincorporated areas or 2 acres or more in size in incorporated areas. (See MN Statutes Section 103G.005, subd. 17b, Wetland Type.)

The Public Waters Work Permit Program in 1997 issued 43 permits, authorizing impacts to 19.045 acres (mostly for public transportation projects) and requiring 34.38 acres of replacement. In 1998, 27.504 acres were lost due to 18 permitted program activities; of these, only one impacted more than two acres of wetland. Restoration or creation of 40.417 acres of wetland mitigated these losses.  (An additional restoration project of 81 acres had no connection to development impacts. The North Fork Crow River Watershed District, Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District and DNR cooperated in restoration of the site, which had been drained due to county ditch improvements.) 

The DNR is also required to replace wetland impacts resulting from its capital improvement projects.  In 1997, the agency reported that 1.36 acres of impacts were replaced with 2.45 acres of restored or created wetlands. There were no impacts in 1998.

In 1997, the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife restored approximately 654 acres of wetlands on lands it owns, and purchased lands containing approximately 1,359 acres of existing wetlands. In 1998, acquisition protected approximately 1,050 acres of wetlands, in addition to 50 acres that were restored. Since 1986, an estimated 55,900 acres have been protected by DNR acquisitions.  Since 1994, DNR has restored about 151 wetlands, totaling 1,910 acres.

The DNR Division of Minerals staff estimated that taconite mining activities impacted and replaced approximately 1,024 acres of wetland during the period from 1992 to 1999.

B. Federal Programs

(See Part X, National Viewpoint, for a summary of a U.S. General Accounting Office report on wetland enumeration at the federal level.)

St. Paul District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) Department of the Army: The ACOE has responsibility for implementation of Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act, which regulates the filling of wetlands.  In 1997, the ACOE took action on 1,539  permit inquiries, including 46 individual permits and 305 nationwide or general permits.1 In 1998, the ACOE issued 1,486 permits, including 47 individual permits and 1,439 nationwide or general permits.

An estimated 386 acres of compensatory mitigation were required in 1998. Since 1988, about 5,330 acres of compensatory mitigation has occurred.

In June 1998, a federal court decided that the “Tulloch rule” was invalid. The Corps and the EPA had adopted this rule in 1993 in an effort to close a loophole that allowed wetland draining by ditching, which is not regulated by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. Sophisticated developers with special equipment had been able to avoid incidental fallback from dredging; the Tulloch rule eliminated this.

Just over a year after invalidation of the Tulloch rule, the EPA estimated that about 30,000 acres of wetland had been destroyed by unauthorized ditching, much of it in Virginia and North Carolina. While state authorities in North Carolina have since moved to halt drainage by stepping up enforcement of state law, Virginia authorities have not. Federal response by ACOE and EPA officials has been to strengthen wetland protection at the state level and clarify the difference between incidental fallback and redeposit (which does fall under regulation), as well as to initiate enforcement action against activities that do still lie under agencies’ statutory authority.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Department of the Interior: USFWS administers several programs aimed at restoring wetlands on private and public lands. USFWS places high priority on projects that will benefit migratory waterfowl and strives to restore sites to a condition as close as possible to their former status (e.g., restoring a partially drained wetland to its pre-drainage condition).*

In 1997, USFWS estimates that it has temporarily and permanently restored or partially restored 47,147 wetland acres in Minnesota since 1987. 

The figures listed here include permanent, temporary and partial restorations completed on acres enrolled in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), on private land and on federal land holdings in Minnesota (see table).

Additionally, the agency reports that in 1997 it acquired 32 sites containing 1,276 acres of wetlands and obtained 26 easements on an additional 749 acres of wetland.  In 1998, it acquired 17 wetland sites (473 acres) and obtained 33 easements on an additional 807 acres of wetland.                                  

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Department of Agriculture: NRCS estimates that 120 acres were restored and 1,490 acres of existing wetland were enrolled in temporary and permanent easements in 1997 and 1998 through the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP).  Since WRP began in 1992, 8,505 acres have been enrolled via 99 contracts with private landowners.  Also, 15 acres of wetlands were restored as required under the mitigation provisions of the “Swampbuster” program in 1997. 

C. Nonprofit and Private Organizations

Many private and nonprofit conservation organizations are involved in wetland preservation and restoration projects, often by providing partnership funds on cooperative projects with state and federal programs. 

Data from Ducks Unlimited (DU) indicates that as of March 1999, it had completed 372 projects involving 61,220 acres of wetlands and 17,283 acres of upland in the state.  Total expenditures by DU in Minnesota for these projects is $11.4 million.  Projects include wetland restoration, enhancement, creation and acquisition. The majority was done in cooperation with state and federal agencies and thus the acres reported already may be included by those agencies previously listed.

Many other local sporting groups and private landowners restore or preserve wetlands for their own benefit and use.  Some of this is reflected in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service data for CRP and Private Lands programs as reported above.   

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