When St. Johns County impacts wetlands with infrastructure projects (primarily roads), it must make up for these impacts just as other private and public entities do. A wetland enhancement, restoration, creation and/or preservation project that serves to offset unavoidable wetland impacts is known as wetland mitigation. The ecological benefits of a mitigation project should compensate for the functional loss resulting from the permitted wetland impact. Mitigation activities may include, but are not limited to, onsite mitigation, offsite mitigation, offsite regional mitigation, and the purchase of mitigation credits from permitted mitigation banks. Mitigation must also take place within the same jurisdictional water basin as the impacts.
The Turnbull Tract
Most County wetland impacts result from road projects which do not allow for on-site mitigation. Mitigation banks serving our area lie outside of St. Johns County and often prove costly. St. Johns County has acquired a 760 acre parcel known as the Turnbull tract to serve as a regional offsite mitigation area for County projects. The site is adjacent to an existing 400 acre conservation easement which means approximately 1,200 acres of the headwaters of Six Mile Creek are being restored and protected as a result of mitigation activities. Water flow has been restored by removing forestry roads, filling or blocking ditches associated with these roads and adding low water crossings. The forests will be thinned and prescribed fire re-introduced to the site to mimic pre-silvicultural habitat. A 9.3 acre wetland creation area has been developed and is thriving with native plant species such as duck potato and pickerel weed. The Turnbull tract will provide for St. Johns County’s future mitigation needs within Basin 5 in a manner that makes both economical and ecological sense.