R. G. Miller Engineers, Inc. (RGME) is in the process of providing environmental and design services to support the creation of a new mitigation banking site along Cedar Bayou – the Crosby-Eastgate Mitigation Bank, to be located on a large area of undeveloped land east of Crosby-Eastgate Road and north of Felscher Road in Harris County, Commissioner Precinct 2.
The Harris County Flood Control District retained RGME for the project, which was included in the flood control bond program approved by voters in 2018. The new mitigation bank will create new, permanent, high- quality wetlands to offset anticipated unavoidable impacts to existing wetlands from both mobility projects and flood risk reduction projects on the eastern side of Harris County.
Under the federal Clean Water Act, no person or project sponsor is allowed to adversely impact wetlands deemed waters of the United States by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) without a permit. To secure a permit for unavoidable impacts, project sponsors must mitigate those impacts, most frequently by purchasing wetland credits from a bank.
“With some infrastructure and development projects we are able to plan or design around the wetlands, so no impacts occur, but when we have unavoidable impacts, mitigation is required. Purchasing credits from a bank is preferred by USACE and is a great approach if credits are available. This new bank will really help increase the supply of mitigation credits.”
He notes that creating a new mitigation bank is a long regulatory process which requires coordination and approvals from USACE, state and federal resource management agencies, and state and federal environmental regulatory agencies.
In addition to creating needed mitigation credits, the project is the first Flood Control District project to pursue verification under the Envision Sustainable Infrastructure Framework (Envision) – a rating system designed to aid decision makers and help project teams identify sustainable approaches during planning, design and construction of infrastructure projects.
“Most folks are familiar with how LEED may be used by architects to make buildings more sustainable. Since 2013, Envision may be used by planners and engineers to make public infrastructure projects more sustainable,” says David Kubala, P.E., Manager of the Public Works Department at RGME. RGME is preparing detailed design plans to outline how the project will be constructed. RGME, through our subconsultant, Cobb, Fendley, and Associates, is also coordinating discussions with other private entities about relinquishing surface property easements.
“We anticipate that easement negotiations will wrap up this winter, our design will proceed to prefinal status in early 2022, regulatory negotiations will conclude in spring of 2022, and project construction will begin summer of 2022,” adds Mr. Kubala.