Date of Award

1-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

Earth and Ocean Sciences

Sub-Department

Earth and Environmental Resources Management

First Advisor

Dan Tufford

Abstract

The purpose of this research was to provide guidance on the integration of the watershed planning and mitigation banking aspects of the 'New Mitigation Rule' into the wetland mitigation framework of South Carolina. This project performed a watershed-scale wetland condition assessment, assessed wetland conditions in two Coastal Plain mitigation banks, and determined the spatial patterns of the use of the Coastal Plain mitigation and In-lieu fee (ILF) banks. This approach used the N.C. Wetland Assessment Method (NCWAM) to determine the condition of 30 wetlands in a watershed (i.e. 12-digit HUC) and two mitigation banks owned by the S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT). The watershed assessment results showed that the wetland conditions in the watershed were 57% high, 24% medium, and 19% low (i.e. high indicating a good quality and low indicating a poor quality). The overall scores for the Black River bank assessment showed thirteen high scored areas, seven medium scored areas, and one low scored area. Therefore, the Black River bank wetlands were in fairly good condition. However, the overall scores for the Huspa Creek bank indicated three high scored areas and eight low scored areas. The low scored areas or poor wetland conditions at the Huspa Creek bank were due to open water areas and restricted tidal flow areas. For the spatial analysis, the bank ledgers (i.e. document of impacts/permits that used the bank) from the five mitigation and one ILF banks were used to collect 523 permits that used these banks. The dataset was used to quantify the spatial extent of bank use, including how current mitigation bank sites have relocated wetlands across watersheds, ecoregions, and service areas. The dataset was also used to quantify the bank use over time, distance to bank used over time, and the bank use during the monitoring period (i.e. first five years since bank approval). Results showed that 72% of the permits that used the banks were mitigated out of the impacted watershed. These projects will provide environmental managers better ways to evaluate wetland functions and conditions, consider cumulative impacts, and produce better mitigation projects in watersheds of South Carolina.

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