Interested parties are hereby notified that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) is considering a proposal that would establish an umbrella coral reef mitigation bank that would incorporate multiple mitigation bank sites located in various service areas throughout the Main Hawaiian Islands (MHI).
State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR)
1151 Punchbowl Street, #330
P.O. Box 621
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
POC: Katherine Cullison, Mitigation Coordinator
AGENT: Not applicable
The location of the proposed umbrella mitigation bank encompasses the MHI and includes six service areas based on USGS 8-digit Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUC), namely: Hawaii (HUC 20010000), Maui (HUC 20020000), Molokai (HUC 20050000), Lanai (HUC 20040000), Oahu (HUC 20060000), and Kauai (HUC 20070000).
As presented in its Prospectus, dated September 18, 2014, DLNR proposes to establish, use, and operate an “umbrella” compensatory mitigation bank for projects and activities that would result in unavoidable adverse impacts to coral reefs authorized by Department of the Army (DA) permits. This public notice is requesting comments on DLNR’s Prospectus (attached).
Mitigation Banking Background—Mitigation banks provide an alternative to traditional Permittee-responsible compensatory mitigation projects. Mitigation banks offer an opportunity for bank sponsors to implement compensatory mitigation at a watershed or regional scale in advance of impacts to waters of the United States, thereby providing strategically located mitigation that optimizes ecological suitability based on watershed needs. Mitigation banks also offer the benefit of reducing temporal losses of aquatic resources because the mitigation work is completed in advance of the impacts occurring, meaning the anticipated loss of aquatic resource functions and/or services are replaced at the mitigation bank site prior to the loss occurring at the project impact site.
Mitigation banks establish “credits” through activities and measures that restore, create, enhance and/or preserve targeted aquatic resources, such as coral reefs or wetlands. These credits can then be sold by the mitigation bank sponsor to DA permit applicants who need to offset unavoidable adverse impacts to aquatic resources that would result from individual projects located within the approved “service area” of the mitigation bank. Upon the sale of available bank credits, the compensatory mitigation responsibility is transferred from the DA Permittee to the mitigation bank sponsor.
The document that addresses the mitigation bank process, including how it is established, used, and managed, is the Mitigation Banking Instrument (MBI). The MBI constitutes the Corps’ regulatory approval for a mitigation bank to be used to provide compensatory mitigation for DA permits pursuant to 33 C.F.R. 332.8(a)(1).
The MBI is based on a Prospectus, which is a planning level document that is prepared by the mitigation bank sponsor and provides a summary of the information regarding the proposed mitigation bank, including, but not limited to: the objectives of the proposed mitigation bank; how the mitigation bank will be established and operated; the proposed service area(s); the general need for and technical feasibility of the proposed mitigation bank; the proposed ownership arrangements and long-term management strategy for the mitigation bank; the qualifications of the mitigation bank sponsor to successfully complete the type(s) of mitigation projects proposed; the ecological suitability of the site(s) to achieve the objectives of the proposed mitigation bank, including the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the bank site(s) and how the site(s) will support planned types of aquatic resources and functions; and when applicable, assurance of sufficient water rights to support the long-term sustainability of the mitigation bank.
Project Description and Objectives — According to DLNR’s Prospectus, the proposed umbrella mitigation bank would provide high quality compensatory mitigation to offset the losses of coral reefs authorized by DA permits. The bank would have the potential to serve a variety of future DA permit applicants, including commercial and private entities as well as public agencies and other organizations proposing work in waters of the U.S. that would result in the unavoidable permanent loss of coral reefs.
More specifically, DLNR proposes to maintain or improve the quantity and condition of coral reefs at banks sites and provide high quality compensatory mitigation that yields ecologically successful and sustainable results. These objectives would be accomplished by:
• Identifying and prioritizing resources for strategic site selection
• Integrating bank efforts with other conservation activities, where practicable
• Monitoring bank sites and applying adaptive management, as needed
• Providing long-term stewardship of the resources
The Prospectus identifies two potential mitigation bank sites located within the Oahu service area, namely: Kaneohe Bay Patch Reefs on the east shore of the island and Waikiki Marine Life Conservation District (MLCD) located along the south shore of Oahu.
The Waikiki MLCD Mitigation Bank Site would be enhanced and/or restored through the transplanting of coral colonies onto suitable areas of reef structure, controlling invasive algae, and out-planting of native grazing sea urchins that would function as a natural bio-control. The goal of this site is to increase live coral cover that would provide additional habitat for reef-dwelling organisms, including fish.
The Kaneohe Bay Patch Reefs Mitigation Bank Site would entail similar mitigation activities as the Waikiki MLCD site that would also restore degraded patch reefs where invasive algae has taken over and resulted in partial or full mortality of live corals. According to DLNR, work activities at the proposed Kaneohe Bay Patch Reefs Mitigation Bank Site would continue to support invasive algae management efforts within the bay that are already in practice by DLNR and The Nature Conservancy. The initial Kaneohe Patch Reefs Mitigation Bank Site would be comprised of four patch reefs (Reefs #10, #14, #16 and #19), totaling 57,546 square meters. Reef restoration would be carried out in two phases. The first phase would involve the removal of the invasive algae by mechanical means via the “Supersucker” (i.e., an underwater vacuum system designed to remove and transport invasive algae off-site to uplands) and the second phase would entail the out-planting of sea urchins (bio-control agents) to the reefs to graze on any residual invasive algae and prevent its re-growth.
The overall intent of the DLNR coral reef umbrella mitigation bank is for the MBI to be modified or expanded as the need for new coral reef mitigation bank sites are identified and suitable sites are selected. In modifying the MBI, each new mitigation site that is proposed to be added to the umbrella mitigation bank would first necessitate the preparation and public review of a site-specific compensatory mitigation plan. If approved by the Corps and IRT, the mitigation plan would become a modification of the MBI and the new mitigation site would be operated and managed in accordance with the terms and conditions of the umbrella MBI.
Service Area — A “service area” for an approved mitigation bank is the geographic area within which impacts can be mitigated at a specific mitigation bank as designated in its MBI. The proposed service areas for the DLNR umbrella coral reef mitigation bank include six islands: Kauai, Oahu, Lanai, Molokai, Maui, and Hawaii. Each island is identified by an 8-digit HUC and constitutes an individual service area.
Evaluation Process — The Corps is soliciting comments from interested parties, including the general public; Federal, State, and local agencies; Native Hawaiian Organizations; and other interested parties to help inform the Corps and the Interagency Review Team (IRT) as to the overall merits of the proposal, the scope of the proposed umbrella mitigation bank, the delineation of the service areas, the ecological suitability of the sites to achieve coral reef restoration, and to identify project aspects that will need to be addressed during the development of a draft MBI, should the Corps, in consultation with the IRT, determine there is potential for the proposed umbrella mitigation bank to provide coral reef compensatory mitigation. Should the Corps’ evaluation of the Prospectus result in an affirmative decision and should DLNR elect to move forward with the preparation of a draft MBI, the decision whether to approve the umbrella coral reef MBI will be based on the Corps’ evaluation of: IRT input and comments; credit determination; the technical feasibility and ecological suitability of the proposal to successfully achieve compensatory mitigation of coral reefs; and fulfillment of applicable requirements prescribed in federal regulation at 33 C.F.R. 332.8.
Comment and Review Period — Conventional mail or electronic (e-mail) comments on this public notice will be accepted and made part of the official administrative record. In order to be accepted, e-mail comments must originate from the author’s e-mail account and must include on the subject line of the e-mail message the Corps file number as indicated on the cover page of this public notice. Conventional mail comments must also include reference to the subject and Corps file number.
E-mail comments should be sent to:
Conventional mail comments should be sent to:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Honolulu District
Regulatory Office (CEPOH-RO)
Attn: Susan A. Meyer
Fort Shafter, Hawaii 96848
All comments whether conventional mail or e-mail must reach this office no later than the expiration date of this public notice to ensure consideration. All comments received within the established review period will be meaningfully considered by the Corps and the IRT. Comments will be distributed to the IRT and the mitigation bank sponsor within 15 days of the close of the public comment period. The Honolulu District Engineer and the IRT will also have the opportunity to comment to the sponsor.
This public notice is issued by the Chief, Regulatory Office.