A. When a Virginia Water Protection Permit is conditioned upon compensatory mitigation for adverse impacts to wetlands or streams, the applicant may be permitted to satisfy all or part of such mitigation requirements by the purchase or use of credits from any wetland or stream mitigation bank in the Commonwealth, or in Maryland on property wholly surrounded by and located in the Potomac River if the mitigation banking instrument provides that the Board shall have the right to enter and inspect the property and that the mitigation bank instrument and the contract for the purchase or use of such credits may be enforced in the courts of the Commonwealth, including any banks owned by the permit applicant, that has been approved and is operating in accordance with applicable federal and state guidance, laws, or regulations for the establishment, use, and operation of mitigation banks as long as (i) the bank is in the same fourth order subbasin, as defined by the hydrologic unit boundaries of the National Watershed Boundary Dataset or by the hydrologic unit system or dataset utilized and depicted or described in the bank’s approved mitigation banking instrument, as the impacted site, or in an adjacent subbasin within the same river watershed as the impacted site, or it meets all the conditions found in clauses (a) through (d) and either clause (e) or (f) of this subsection; (ii) the bank is ecologically preferable to practicable onsite and offsite individual mitigation options as defined by federal wetland regulations; and (iii) the banking instrument, if approved after July 1, 1996, has been approved by a process that included public review and comment. When the bank is not located in the same subbasin or adjacent subbasin within the same river watershed as the impacted site, the purchase or use of credits shall not be allowed unless the applicant demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Department of Environmental Quality that (a) the impacts will occur as a result of a Virginia Department of Transportation linear project or as the result of a locality project for a locality whose jurisdiction encompasses multiple river watersheds; (b) there is no practical same river watershed mitigation alternative; (c) the impacts are less than one acre in a single and complete project within a subbasin; (d) there is no significant harm to water quality or fish and wildlife resources within the river watershed of the impacted site; and either (e) impacts within the Chesapeake Bay watershed are mitigated within the Chesapeake Bay watershed as close as possible to the impacted site or (f) impacts within subbasins 02080108, 02080208, and 03010205, as defined by the National Watershed Boundary Dataset, are mitigated in-kind within those subbasins, as close as possible to the impacted site. For the purposes of this subsection, the hydrologic unit boundaries of the National Watershed Boundary Dataset or other hydrologic unit system may be adjusted by the Department of Environmental Quality to reflect site-specific geographic or hydrologic information provided by the bank sponsor.For the purposes of this section, “river watershed” means the Potomac River Basin, Shenandoah River Basin, James River Basin, Rappahannock River Basin, Roanoke and Yadkin Rivers Basin, Chowan River Basin (including the Dismal Swamp and Albemarle Sound), Tennessee River Basin/Big Sandy River Basin Complex, Chesapeake Bay and its Small Coastal Basins, Atlantic Ocean, York River Basin, and the New River Basin.
B. The Department of Environmental Quality is authorized to serve as a signatory to agreements governing the operation of mitigation banks. The Commonwealth, its officials, agencies, and employees shall not be liable for any action taken under any agreement developed pursuant to such authority.
C. State agencies and localities are authorized to purchase credits from mitigation banks.
D. A locality may establish, operate and sponsor wetland or stream single-user mitigation banks within the Commonwealth that have been approved and are operated in accordance with the requirements of subsection A, provided that such single-user banks may only be considered for compensatory mitigation for the sponsoring locality’s municipal, joint municipal or governmental projects. For the purposes of this subsection, the term “sponsoring locality’s municipal, joint municipal or governmental projects” means projects for which the locality is the named permittee, and for which there shall be no third-party leasing, sale, granting, transfer, or use of the projects or credits. Localities may enter into agreements with private third parties to facilitate the creation of privately sponsored wetland and stream mitigation banks having service areas developed through the procedures of subsection A.
2007, c. 659; 2008, c. 173; 2011, c. 253; 2012, c. 631; 2014, c. 332.