At their March 14 meeting, the Mitchell County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on Ordinance 58, which authorizes the Mitchell County Conservation Board to engage in offering the sale of wetland mitigation credits to public and private entities pursuant to Chapter 23A of the Code of Iowa.
Mitchell County is the owner of a wetland mitigation bank and the credits and funds are managed by the Conservation Board.
Chapter 23A.2 allows counties to engage in the offering of sale, leasing, delivery, dispensing, distributing or advertising goods or services to the public which are also authorized by private enterprises if those counties are specifically authorized by the ordinance.
The sale of wetland mitigation credits offset environmental losses that result from unavoidable impacts to the waters of the United States.
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The ordinance authorizes the Conservation Board to own, operate, construct and maintain the mitigation bank.
Mitchell County’s wetland mitigation bank and the selling of credits are designed to bring an influx of funds to Mitchell County. The wetland mitigation bank land will be maintained, monitored and restored back to its natural state and managed thereafter.
In exchange for being a good steward of the land, Mitchell County will be awarded mitigation credits by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which it can then sell.
At a meeting the previous year, the Board of Supervisors had approved a motion for Conservation to attempt to sell wetland mitigation bank credits to pay for the first year, but if that did not happen immediately, to take the necessary funds for the first payment from the local option sales tax. Conservation pursued the loan with St. Ansgar State Bank and accepted the low bid of $412,000.
Any funds available after the payoff of the loan will be used to develop and enhance Mitchell County parks and areas under the management of the Conservation Board. Funds received will be deposited and paid out of the Conservation Board trust account.
Supervisor Mark Hendrickson said he received three oral complaints against profits from the sale of wetland mitigation bank credits going directly to the Conservation Board. Supervisor Mike Mayer indicated he had also received complaints.
As well, the Board of Supervisors received a letter of support from the Mitchell County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Commissioners. The letter stated that the Conservation District’s goal is to support good conservation practices and the quality use of natural resources.
“We support work that has been done and the continued work that will be done by Mitchell County Conservation and management of the wetlands mitigation bank,” the letter read. It goes on to state: “The revenue received by Conservation will not only provide funding for services to the people, but also helps reduce the tax burden on the county for future Conservation projects.”
Conservation District Assistant Commissioner Milt Owen was present as a private citizen encouraging the Board of Supervisors to pass the ordinance.
“I think it’s reasonable, appropriate, logical that the project be paid for out of the revenues that are coming from it, and I think it’s logical and appropriate that any additional revenues go back into the trust fund for Conservation,” Owen said.
In addition, a landowner adjacent to the wetland mitigation bank told Supervisor Jim Wherry he supports the project: “He wants to make sure that the things that need to be finished and corrected are done, but he had no problem as far as the credits going to Conservation.”
Another adjacent property landowner present at the meeting asked who would pay for property damage from pooling of water caused by the wetland mitigation bank. Conservation Board Director Mike Miner informed him that work was not complete on the project, and it should not be a problem in the future.
“We still have 6,000 cubic yards of sediment that has to be removed,” Miner said. In addition, not all seeding has been completed, according to Miner.
The Board of Supervisors approved the ordinance regarding the wetland mitigation bank, with Mayer, Wherry and Supervisors Sydney Hartogh and Todd Frein voting yes, and Hendrickson voting no.
Jason W. Selby is the community editor for the Mitchell Country Press News. He can be reached at 515-971-6217, or by email at email@example.com.