SPRINGFIELD — The city plans to clear 1.6 acres of potentially protected wetland to make way for new industrial development and jobs at Airpark Ohio.
To offset the wetland loss, an environmental consulting firm recommended the city purchase 1.6 acres of wetland mitigation credit at the Big Darby-Hellbranch Wetlands Mitigation Bank in Franklin County, city Economic Development Administrator Tom Franzen said.
City commissioners approved the emergency measure at their meeting Tuesday night.
The clearing at Airpark Ohio will allow for Phase II of infrastructure construction, including an extension of Green Field Drive and water and sewer lines south to five planned industrial lots on an approximately 45-acre tract, Franzen said.
It was unclear if wetland controlling agencies the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers would ultimately rule the area to be protected wetland, Franzen said. He said the area looks more like a low spot in farmland.
But because of road construction time lines, the city decided to go ahead with the $60,800 purchase of wetland credit at Big Darby-Hellbranch from the Ohio Wetlands Foundation within the Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park.
Public, private and nonprofit agencies in Ohio are required to mitigate wetland impact in several ways.
“There are different ways of handling wetland,” Franzen said, explaining that the city could have let the wetland sit for a couple years and correct itself over the long term.
“We want to get the road done in a certain time allotment,” he said. “For development purposes, it’s best to get it out of the way.”
The Army Corps and the Ohio EPA have agreed to consider the city’s wetland credit purchase as an option for removing the suspected wetland on Airpark Ohio property, according to the purchase agreement.
The process was cumbersome, Franzen said, but necessary to facilitate further development in the area. The city has encountered similar measures in the past, but not in recent years, he said.
The study and associated application with the Army Corps and EPA by the MAD Scientists & Associates environmental firm cost $10,300, according to Franzen.
Funds for the study and wetland credit purchase came from city economic development funds, Franzen said.
The nonprofit Ohio Wetland Foundation has sold nearly 700 acres of credit at a variety of wetland banks across Ohio and has protected, enhanced or restored more than 2,400 acres, according to its website.
Additional credits are available at other Ohio wetland banks in Ohio, including Big Darby-Hellbranch.
While Southwest Ohio entities, such as Springfield, purchase wetland mitigation credits, it is not as common as in the northern part of the state, said Vince Messerly, president of the Ohio Wetland Foundation.
The Great Miami River watershed — from the headwaters north to below Mad River, where Springfield is located — has seen about 5¼ acres of wetland impacted with mitigation acreage about 20¼ acres since 2006, according to figures from Ohio EPA.
That’s among the 200 to 300 acres mitigated across the state each year, Messerly said.
Wetland mitigation became law upon passage of the Clean Water Act in the early 1970s, but the idea of wetland banking became popular in the late 1980s, Messerly said.
Commissioners also approved an emergency transfer of more than $61,000 from the general fund to the economic development fund to pay for the wetland credit.
In other Airpark news, the city appropriated more than $3 million to the sewer revenue fund in advance of grant money from the Army Corps of Engineers for the airport sanitary sewer project.
The measure was part of an emergency supplemental appropriations ordinance approved by commissioners Tuesday.
Funds will be replaced as grant money is received, according to the ordinance.