During the last century, dramatic wetland losses have occurred in the forested wetlands of the Lower Mississippi Valley. The primary causes of these losses have been flood control projects, conversion to agricultural production and urban development. The Hatchie River watershed features some of the largest and most biologically diverse bottomland hardwood forests (BLH) in the southeastern US. These forests represent an important natural resource associated with stream and river floodplains. BLH forests within the Hatchie watershed support diverse plant and wildlife communities adapted to seasonally fluctuating water levels and provide a wide array of ecological benefits and services.
Most of the major tributaries to the Hatchie River were channelized between 1900 and inception of the Clean Water Act of 1972. Streams were straightened and levees were constructed to reduce flooding and vast acres of BLH forests were cleared, drained and converted to agriculture. These ill-fated flood control projects came at a terrible cost to our natural resources.
Today streams and wetlands are protected under Sections 404/401 of the Clean Water Act. As such, the discharge of dredge or fill material into wetlands in requires both federal and state permits. Where permits are allowed for these activities, unavoidable impacts must be mitigated to ensure the no net loss policy is met. Applicants seeking permits for wetland alterations may purchase compensatory mitigation credits from an approved mitigation bank, in-lieu-fee program, or provide permittee-responsible mitigation.
Mitigation Bank Development
In 2007, the TWRF established the Hatchie River Wetland Mitigation Bank. The 685-acre tract along Big Muddy Creek in Haywood County had been cleared, ditched, leveed and converted to agriculture in the late 1960s. Hydrologic restoration included the removal of more than two miles of levees, and filling seven miles of internal ditches. Reforestation of the site was accomplished through the planting of more than 224,000 native bottomland hardwood seedlings.
Habitat & Wildlife
A dramatic increase in wildlife usage at the site occurred almost immediately after restoration. White-tailed deer, turkeys, rabbits, raccoons, and a variety of songbirds are now found in abundance. During late winter, mallards and other puddle ducks also frequent the site to rest and feed on native wetland grasses and protein-rich invertebrates found within the soil.
Intensive monitoring and routine maintenance is performed to ensure the success of the restoration project. Hydrology, soils and vegetation data are collected and reported annually to regulatory agencies. Beaver dam removal and trapping are part of the adaptive management measures benefitting the planted seedlings.
Upon closure of the Bank, the TWRF will donate the property to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). As a public wildlife management area, the property will by utilized by hunters and wildlife watchers alike for generations to come. The best part is, that the restored wetland habitat and the additional 685-acres of TWRA-managed public land will have been provided at no cost to TWRA or the sportsmen and women of Tennessee.
Operation & Use
The TWRF is responsible for the operation and management of the Hatchie River Wetland Mitigation Bank. The use of a mitigation bank must be approved by the regulatory agencies prior to the purchase of credits. Purchasing mitigation credits from a mitigation bank streamlines and simplifies the permitting process, saving the applicant time, money and exposure to additional liability. Once credits have been purchased, the applicant’s mitigation obligation has been met. Applicants wishing to purchase credits should contact the TWRF at 615-831-9311 x-111 for service area information, pricing and availability.
Banner Image – Aerial view of the Hatchie River Wetland Mitigation Bank