Friday, April 3rd, 2015 marked an important milestone for Ecosystem Investment Partners, as Colonel Beck of the US Army Corps Louisville District, Dave Harmon from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, representatives of the state Department of Water and Fish and Wildlife offices, and Adam Rice from the office of U.S. Congressman Harold Rogers joined our team for a groundbreaking ceremony that marks the start of 72 miles of stream restoration in the eastern portion of the state.
The Louisville District of USACE, as part of one of the more thorough and rigorous stream impact mitigation programs in the country, requires that any mitigation project have subsurface mineral rights that remain joined to the surface real estate rights, and combining these circumstances with properties that have important restorable stream channels can be daunting. Working closely with our Kentucky partners, Beaver Creek Hydrology and Stream Restoration Specialists, EIP was able to identify and acquire over 3,200 acres that have been assembled into the Eastern Kentucky Stream Mitigation Bank that received final Mitigation Bank Instrument approval on March 16th.
The agencies that led the bank review process – the Louisville Corps District and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Water – provided timely and highly professional feedback and direction at each step, allowing EIP to finalize design and other requirements on time and within budget, and enabling last week’s groundbreaking.
This region of Kentucky in the vicinity of Louisville and Lexington has the greatest density of streams in the continental United States due to its unique topography and rainfall pattern, which means that many kinds of economic activity and development are simply not able to completely avoid stream impacts. The approval of the EIP bank means that major infrastructure and energy projects can now purchase credits to help them achieve cost-effective compliance with Clean Water Act provisions. This option is particularly important in the Big and Little Sandy watersheds where the state In Lieu Fee program is not currently operating.
The history of this region included logging operations that would drag logs to market directly in the stream channel, resulting in long eroded sections with no riffle and pool structure, and very few macro-invertebrates or fish. The work EIP has now started will restore more natural pattern, profile and dimension to these badly degraded streambeds, bringing back a meandering pattern with a stable channel configuration that is, of course, permanently protected with a conservation easement. In seasons to come, this will reduce downstream sediment loading, and provide high quality habitat for the fish fauna of Kentucky – which are more diverse than that of any other inland area of comparable size in North America except Tennessee and Alabama.