Support healthy functioning of aquatic ecosystems for fish, other wildlife, and people by restoring the ecological function, integrity, and resiliency of those ecosystems that have been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.
The requirements apply to sites that contain only the following naturally occurring aquatic ecosystems that have been degraded, damaged, or destroyed:
- Marine/Estuarine—Tidal wetlands, mudflats, shorelines, reefs, seagrass beds
- Riverine—Streams, rivers (associated floodplains and their riparian buffer)
- Lacustrine—Lakes, ponds (associated shorelines and their riparian buffer)
- Palustrine—Non-tidal wetlands, seeps, springs, vernal pools, seasonal wetlands
Degradation, damage, or destruction may be a result of artificial modification (e.g., burying, filling, draining, piping, channeling, bulkheading, armoring, levees, water control structures, illicit discharges); sea level rise; alteration of natural hydrology; loss of native flora and fauna; invasive species; and alteration of biological processes, soils, geomorphology, and water quality.
- Ensure the section of the site assessment (see Pre-Design P2.2: Conduct a pre-design site assessment) is complete and shows the locations of any existing aquatic ecosystems on site that have been degraded, damaged, or destroyed.
- Restore the geographic extent of the aquatic ecosystem within the SITES project boundary for a minimum of:
- 30 percent of the geographic extent 4 points
- 60 percent of the geographic extent 5 points
- 90 percent of the geographic extent 6 points
- Develop a restoration plan based on the nine Attributes of Restored Ecosystems.Restoration plan must include a description of the reference site and its conditions, including its native plant communities, appropriate aquatic habitat, water quality improvements, and stable bank or shoreline conditions.
- Restoration of river and stream channels must also be inclusive of their respective floodplain and riparian zone. Restoration of lakes and ponds must also be inclusive of their respective shorelines.
- Ensure the section of the site maintenance plan (see O+M P8.1: Plan for sustainable site maintenance) is complete and includes ongoing management activities to protect the integrity of the aquatic ecosystems.
Attributes of Restored Ecosystems (From the Society for Ecological Restoration’s International Primer on Ecological Restoration)
1. The restored ecosystem contains a characteristic assemblage of the species that occur in the reference ecosystem and that provide appropriate community structure.
2. The restored ecosystem consists of indigenous species to the greatest practicable extent.
3. All functional groups necessary for the continued development and/or stability of the restored ecosystem are represented or, if they are not, the missing groups have the potential to colonize by natural means.
4. The physical environment of the restored ecosystem is capable of sustaining reproducing populations of the species necessary for its continued stability or development along the desired trajectory.
5. The restored ecosystem apparently functions normally for its ecological stage of development, and signs of dysfunction are absent.
6. The restored ecosystem is suitably integrated into a larger ecological matrix or landscape, with which it interacts through abiotic and biotic flows and exchanges.
7. Potential threats to the health and integrity of the restored ecosystem from the surrounding landscape have been eliminated or reduced as much as possible.
8. The restored ecosystem is sufficiently resilient to endure the normal periodic stress events in the local environment that serve to maintain the integrity of the ecosystem.
9. The restored ecosystem is self-sustaining to the same degree as its reference system and has the potential to persist indefinitely under existing environmental conditions.
Note: Projects restoring aquatic ecosystems as compensatory mitigation to meet regulatory requirements may not be eligible for this credit. This credit does not apply to stormwater management practices. This credit also does not apply to the creation of a new aquatic ecosystem when none existed prior to current project development, except when it can be justified to shift the geographic extent of the aquatic ecosystem to compensate for projected sea level rise or changing hydrologic conditions.
- Restoration prescriptions and strategies will vary, but base them on historic reference conditions, natural processes, natural materials, and the reestablishment of native vegetation communities.
- Develop a set of restoration and management practices that permanently will remove from the site stressors that are causing degradation or damage.
- Reconstruct and reintroduce to the site the array of biotic, geochemical, hydrological, morphological, and vegetative processes that will result in the aquatic ecosystems being placed on a trajectory toward partial or full recovery.
- Specific restoration methodologies and techniques should be in accordance with the current science and practice of restoration as applicable for the specific aquatic ecosystem being restored and within the context of its location.