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** Archived Article - please check for current information. **

July 29, 2014

New mitigation bank approved for Horry and Georgetown counties

The Charleston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved the Carter Stilley Wetland and Stream Mitigation Bank which will be the largest mitigation bank serving Horry and Georgetown counties and the first bank in South Carolina to offer coastal stream credits.

Mitigation banking is the restoration, creation, enhancement, or preservation of a wetland, stream, or habitat conservation area which offsets expected adverse impacts to similar nearby ecosystems. The goal is to replace the exact function and value of the specific wetland habitats that would be adversely affected by a proposed project. Once approved by regulatory agencies the mitigation bank may sell credits to developers whose projects will impact these various ecosystems. The 1,304-acre Carter Stilley Mitigation Bank will include of 704 acres and 6,810 feet of restored, enhanced, and preserved wetlands and streams.

"The Corps of Engineers believes that mitigation banking is a great solution to offset unavoidable adverse impacts to waters of the United States. The proposed mitigation bank is expected to maintain and improve aquatic resources on the site and within the surrounding watershed," said Lt. Col. John Litz, District Commander, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District.

Credits from the bank will be available for purchase by government agencies and private developers in the bank’s service areas to offset unavoidable impacts of roads, bridges and other construction projects in the upper coastal region of South Carolina.

The bank will be managed by American Timberlands Company, headquartered in Pawleys Island. CEO of American Timberlands, Tom Rowland, said, “This bank is a perfect example of our land investment with unique attributes capable of providing returns in excess of a traditional land investment without increasing risk. We are excited about the public/private sector collaboration on Carter Stilley Mitigation Bank that will allow our company to leave a legacy of delivering attractive returns to our investors while simultaneously being good stewards of land for future generations.”

Tidewater Environmental Services, a natural resources consulting firm based in Charleston, provided environmental consulting during the permitting process and has been engaged to assist in construction design and long-term monitoring of the bank. “This project is a partnership effort between Tidewater and American Timberlands. Our ability to deliver a mitigation plan that will successfully enhance and restore wetlands and streams along the floodplain of the Waccamaw River is due to countless hours spent evaluating the site and coordinating with agency experts. This project is a prime example of how sound restoration occurs through a collaborative approach.” said Ross Nelson, Tidewater's Principal and Senior Project Manager.

In addition to providing mitigation for the future development of the region, American Timberlands collaborated to ensure further public benefit from the bank by donating 1,304 acres to DNR for dedication into the Waccamaw River Heritage Preserve. Located along the Waccamaw River, the Heritage Preserve is a publicly accessible tract that protects a relatively unbroken riverine bottomland hardwood ecosystem containing rare plant species and providing critical fish and wildlife habitat.

The bank will be protected in perpetuity by DNR. “DNR is committed to partnering with the private sector, other state and federal agencies and non-government organization" said DNR Agency Director Alvin Taylor. "I am excited because the Carter Stilley Mitigation Bank is another example of working together to enhance and preserve the natural resources of our state and make more lands available for public recreation."

The transfer of the deed required final approval of the South Carolina Budget and Control Board says Rep. Nelson Hardwick (R-Dist. 106), chairman of the House Agriculture, Natural Resources & Environmental Affairs Committee, "Speaking as Chairman of the Horry County Legislative Delegation and on their behalf, this is a win for the people of South Carolina and Horry County. We are adding to the inventory of public lands for our people and facilitating the sale of much needed mitigation credits to local developers."

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