MNRCP awards record $5.7 million for wetland restoration and conservation in Maine
AUGUSTA, December 7, 2021 — The Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program (MNRCP) awarded over $5.7 million for 24 projects across Maine that will restore, enhance, or protect wetlands and other important natural resources, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (Maine DEP) announced today. The total award amount and number of projects are the most that MNRCP has ever awarded in a single year. Projects awarded funding include eelgrass restoration in Brunswick and Harpswell; salt marsh enhancement projects in Hancock, Georgetown, and Wells; a dam removal project in Freeport; a culvert upgrade in Hancock County; and preservation of high-value wetlands at sites ranging from 16 acres to over 900 acres in 22 towns in 10 different Maine counties. In total, $5,713,069 was awarded to restore or enhance almost 400 acres of wetlands and help conserve approximately 4,000 acres of wetlands and associated upland buffer.
MNRCP is part of the state’s In Lieu Fee (ILF) Compensation Program, whereby developers who are seeking permits for environmental impacts can pay a fee to the state to compensate for those impacts. The fees are collected by the Maine DEP and are transferred to a dedicated fund where they are pooled together with fees from other projects. MNRCP then has an annual funding cycle where awards are made for wetland restoration, enhancement, or preservation projects that serve as compensation for the development impacts. Public agencies, municipalities, tribes, and non-profit conservation organizations are all eligible to apply for funding.
Not only does the program provide an efficient and consistent alternative to developers for compensation for natural resource impacts, MNRCP is also one of the most important funding sources for wetland restoration and conservation projects in the state. Since it began in 2008, the program has awarded over $25 million for more than 150 restoration and conservation projects.
“This funding round included projects that not only meet Maine’s mitigation requirements, but also meet state-wide goals for addressing marsh migration and climate resiliency,” said Commissioner Melanie Loyzim of the Maine DEP. “The awards include one project that is a priority site for marsh migration in Brunswick, as well as three separate projects, in Wells, Georgetown, and Hancock, that will enhance salt marshes to make them more resilient to sea level rise. We look forward to more projects like these in the future.”
“This award will make it possible for us to carry out an exciting collaborative project on the Swett Marsh tidal marsh in Georgetown,” noted Ruth Indrick, Project Manager with the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust (KELT), one of this year’s project awardees. “With it, we will be able to upgrade a critically undersized culvert and remediate historical agricultural modifications that are causing ponding and subsidence on 126 acres of conserved tidal marsh. When the work is completed, the town road will be safer and more stable, and the marsh will be healthier and more resilient."
“MNRCP’s recognition of the ecological importance of mitigating eelgrass impacts will help us replace traditional block-and-chain moorings with specially-designed conservation moorings,” said Daniel Devereaux, Coastal Resources Manager for the Town of Brunswick, another of this year’s awardees. “This initiative will promote a more vibrant and sustainable eelgrass bed, which supports biological diversity that is priceless to coastal shellfish communities like Brunswick. This support will help ensure we can continue to rely on our local bays to provide income to hundreds of our residents and high-quality food to the rest of the state and country.”
MNRCP is widely considered to be a successful ILF program, both in New England and the country, and has become a valuable asset to the conservation community in Maine as well as developers seeking state and federal permits. The success of MNRCP relies on coordination between Maine DEP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who oversee natural resource permitting in the state, and The Nature Conservancy of Maine, which administers MNRCP on behalf of Maine DEP.
“The MNRCP is one of the most personally rewarding elements of my long career with the Corps,” said Jay Clement of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maine Project Office. “Thirteen review cycles now complete; tens of thousands of acres of Maine’s wetlands, streams, vernal pools and other aquatic resources and their upland buffers restored, enhanced, and preserved; and immeasurable public interest benefits protected in perpetuity. At the same time, the program offers great efficiencies to state and federal permit programs in the face of heavy workloads and staffing challenges, which in turn benefits the public.”
In 2022, MNRCP will be seeking more wetland restoration and enhancement projects, as these projects better address state and federal mitigation policy and address state conservation planning goals. MNRCP will also continue to look for projects that restore or protect coastal ecosystems, including salt marshes, eelgrass beds, and other intertidal and subtidal habitats.
For more information about MNRCP, visit http://mnrcp.org/
For additional information, contact:
David Madore, Maine Department of Environmental Protection (207) 287-5842, david.madore
Jeremy Cluchey, The Nature Conservancy in Maine (207) 607-4843, Jeremy.cluchey
Tim Dugan, New England District Corps of Engineers, (978) 318-8264, timothy.j.dugan