NYCEDC and NYC Parks Release RFEI to Pilot the City’s First Mitigation Bank on Staten Island
Saw Mill Creek Pilot Wetland Mitigation Bank is the first-of-its-kind in an urban area as dense as New York City
Mitigation banks help offset waterfront environmental impacts and use public-private financing to restore large-scale wetlands
New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), in partnership with NYC Parks, released a request for expressions of interest (RFEI) for environmental Credits from New York City’s first wetland mitigation bank. The pilot project seeks to protect and enhance over 50-acres of the City’s wetlands at the Saw Mill Creek Marsh on Staten Island’s West Shore, while fostering ecologically friendly waterfront development. The restoration will generate “Credits” of required mitigation that can be used to offset unavoidable and permitted impacts of waterfront construction projects. The full RFEI is available here.
As the first State and Federally approved mitigation bank in New York City, the Saw Mill Creek Pilot Wetland Mitigation Bank aims to catalyze public and private funding for large-scale wetland restoration at one single location. In addition to restoring degraded wetlands and upland buffer habitats, the bank creates mitigation Credits that are available to offset marine construction impacts. Creation of the mitigation bank will restore tidal wetlands and streams that will in turn, provide a positive contribution to water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, flood attenuation, and erosion control.
"Establishing a mitigation bank at the Saw Mill Creek Marsh is an innovative solution to a complicated problem," said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett. “The restoration of over 50-acres of tidal wetlands will create hundreds of jobs and revitalize the City's waterfront, while accelerating future development projects."
“This mitigation bank is a milestone for the City's overall wetlands strategy,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP. “The MARSHES project will improve and enhance over 50 acres at one of our largest remaining salt marshes—a far more expansive area than ever before. I commend our state and federal partners for their commitment to this project, and the NYC EDC for leading the City’s efforts.”
“Hurricane Sandy highlighted our vulnerabilities to coastal storms and the growing risks of climate change,” said Daniel Zarrilli, NYC’s Senior Director for Climate Policy & Programs and Chief Resilience Officer. “Today's announcement of work to restore the severely degraded Saw Mill Creek Marsh in Staten Island and establish the City’s first mitigation bank will reduce storm damage for hundreds of businesses and residents in the area, while creating economic benefits for other coastal resiliency projects being planned. We applaud NYCEDC and NYC Parks on this important milestone and look forward to their continued partnership in creating a more resilient city.”
“Protecting our environment and facilitating innovative waterfront development remain two of our State’s biggest priorities,” said New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “The creation of this wetland mitigation program will make it easier to spur development along the New York City waterfront without compromising our great ecological resources. The Department of State looks forward to working with EDC to improve New York City’s coastal communities.”
“One of the biggest challenges we face in our post-Sandy world is finding a way to protect our communities and our natural environment from future disasters by requiring more resilient development without stunting economic growth. That is why I felt mitigation banking would be a great tool for Staten Island. A mitigation bank will potentially allow us to preserve, protect and enhance our borough’s wetlands, while at the same time make the building process easier, less time consuming and ultimately less expensive for those who want to invest here,” said City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo.
“As chair of the City Council's Waterfronts Committee, I have toured the Saw Mill Creek Marsh, where former wetlands have been filled, tidal flows obstructed and substantial areas overrun with invasive weeds,” said Council Member Debbie Rose, Chair of the City Council Waterfronts Committee. This pilot program has the potential to leverage public and private investment to remove debris and restore what was once a healthy ecosystem of fish, birds and mammals. The results of this pilot will help us determine whether mitigation banking is a means to generate incentives to increase remediation work and restore natural waterfront environments throughout New York City.”
“I’m glad to see this project moving forward. Innovative concepts like mitigation banks can expedite resiliency projects and save money, and I’m excited to see it tried here for the first time,” said U.S. Congressman Dan Donovan (R- Staten Island).
“Once again, we see economic development going hand-in-hand with environmental uplift. The City of New York’s new ‘mitigation bank’ is a process common in other states but unused here—until now. It will remediate degraded wetlands at Saw Mill Creek, financed by businesses who may be rebuilding piers or bulkheads but lack the expertise, or necessary conditions, for on-site mitigation. This is a boost for business and a big win for our urban environment,” said Roland Lewis, President & CEO, Waterfront Alliance.
Captain Eric Johansson, Executive Director of the Tug and Barge Committee of the Port of NY and NJ, which represents more than two dozen NY maritime businesses, said, “The availability of mitigation Credits is a game changer for NYC’s maritime industry. Be it dredging, boat lifts, or bulkhead repair, businesses that rely on tugs and barges for the transport have repairs and investments they must make to keep businesses working. Mitigation Credits for unavoidable maritime construction impacts decreases the permitting complexity our members face that discourages them from making waterside facility investments. Availability of Credits is an important addition to NYC’s regulatory tools that will make a difference to our businesses.”
State and Federal laws require developers, infrastructure builders, and property owners seeking to develop waterfront property to secure environmental impact mitigation prior to receiving permits required to start in-water construction. Typical environmental mitigation projects for in-water construction can take years to permit and can cost upwards of $2 million per acre, as it is often difficult to identify appropriate mitigation sites. Moreover, the existence of Credits can serve to streamline a regulatory approval process that can be cumbersome and costly.
Currently, more than twenty-eight states have established over 1,000-mitigation bank programs since 1990, which have resulted in the restoration of 960,000 acres of wetlands. The banks have become a nationally proven model for balancing economic initiatives and funding wetland restoration.
Establishment of the Saw Mill Creek Mitigation Bank plays an integral role in the City’s Mitigation and Restoration Strategies for Habitat and Ecological Sustainability (MARSHES) initiative. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the de Blasio Administration prioritized wetland restoration as a key component of the City’s rebuilding and resiliency efforts. New York State’s Regional Economic Development Council is also supporting the project for its vital contributions to regional economic development and investments in waterfront revitalization, through grants totaling $1.5M from the New York State Department of State and Empire State Development.
Wetland restoration and construction is anticipated to commence in November. The RFEI is piloting 1.29 credit acres of impact for permittees that are required to secure wetland mitigation offsets specified by State and Federal regulatory agencies. Responses to the RFEI will be due on November 9, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. Respondents may submit questions or request clarifications to NYCEDC no later than 5:00pm on Monday, October 23, 2017 by email to MARSHESCredits@edc.nyc.
The RFEI is available for in-person pick-up between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, from NYCEDC, 110 William Street, 4th floor, New York, NY (between Fulton & John Streets).
New York City Economic Development Corporation is the City's primary vehicle for promoting economic growth in each of the five boroughs. NYCEDC's mission is to stimulate growth through expansion and redevelopment programs that encourage investment, generate prosperity and strengthen the City's competitive position. NYCEDC serves as an advocate to the business community by building relationships with companies that allow them to take advantage of New York City's many opportunities. Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, or visit our blog to learn more about NYCEDC projects and initiatives.