DMS innovates through use of expertise and new technology

Thursday, June 13, 2019 - 1:28pm

Last month, staff from the Division of Mitigation Services participated in the National Mitigation Banking Conference in Minneapolis where topics of conversation included North Carolina’s in-lieu fee program and utilizing technology for environmental monitoring.

Those topics and the work of the division are critical to the protection of North Carolina’s environment. North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country and when streams and wetlands are impacted during the course of development, compensatory mitigation is a means of offsetting the impact.

Developers often don’t have the resources or the expertise to identify, plan, build, and monitor a project to fit their mitigation requirements. So, North Carolina allows developers to leave that work to mitigation bankers or the Division of Mitigation Services who specialize in mitigation to generate stream and wetland credits.

Customers have the option of purchasing credits from a mitigation bank, or in North Carolina, to participate in the state’s in-lieu fee program where the responsibility for providing those credits transfers to the Division of Mitigation Services. Customers include the North Carolina Department of Transportation, major public universities, large multinational corporations, and even local homeowners building on their property.

DMS is one of the first in-lieu fee programs in the county and it remains one of the most innovative thanks to a trained staff of scientists and environmental specialists who have years of technical expertise on the best practices for restoration.

“We continue to improve the selection of mitigation projects as well as improving restoration practices. We work closely with the mitigation community to identify issues and find solutions,” says Periann Russell, the division’s Geomorphologist.

In 2018, through the work of DMS staff, the division, using private mitigation providers, contracted to restore or enhance 38,010 feet of stream, 11 acres of wetland, and 1.5 million square feet of riparian buffer.

At the conference in Minneapolis, Melonie Allen presented on the progress of DMS’s Virtual Mitigation Tour which uses high resolution 360-degree georeferenced videos to capture imagery of project sites. “It enables you to have a virtual tour of the site,” says Allen, who collects the imagery data by walking the wetland and stream sites with the 360 camera mounted on a backpack she designed. Development of technology will expedite, and reduce the cost of mitigation site review.

In the end the work is about protecting water quality and aquatic habitat, and it’s an opportunity for DMS staff to work out in the field collecting data, data which is critical to protecting North Carolina’s natural resources.