Compensatory stream and wetland mitigation in North Carolina: An evaluation of regulatory success
Data from a probability sample were used to estimate wetland and stream mitigation success from 2007 to 2009 across North Carolina (NC). “Success” was defined as whether the mitigation site met regulatory requirements in place at the time of construction. Analytical results were weighted by both component counts and mitigation size. Overall mitigation success (including preservation) was estimated at 74 % (SE = 3 %) for wetlands and 75 % (SE = 4 %) for streams in NC. Compared to the results of previous studies, wetland mitigation success rates had increased since the mid-1990s. Differences between mitigation providers (mitigation banks, NC Ecosystem Enhancement Program’s design-bid-build and full-delivery programs, NC Department of Transportation and private permittee-responsible mitigation) were generally not significant although permittee-responsible mitigation yielded higher success rates in certain circumstances. Both wetland and stream preservation showed high rates of success and the stream enhancement success rate was significantly higher than that of stream restoration. Additional statistically significant differences when mitigation size was considered included: (1) the Piedmont yielded a lower stream mitigation success rate than other areas of the state, and (2) recently constructed wetland mitigation projects demonstrated a lower success rate than those built prior to 2002. Opportunities for improvement exist in the areas of regulatory record-keeping, understanding the relationship between post-construction establishment and long-term ecological trajectories of stream and wetland restoration projects, incorporation of numeric ecological metrics into mitigation monitoring and success criteria, and adaptation of stream mitigation designs to achieve greater success in the Piedmont.