New Program Supports Atlantic Salmon Recovery

Augusta - The Maine Department of Marine Resources announces a new program to help fund Atlantic salmon recovery work and reduce the regulatory burden associated with road and bridge construction projects.

The Atlantic Salmon Restoration and Conservation Program (ASRCP) provides public and private parties working on road and bridge construction projects the flexibility to pay a fee in lieu of mitigation efforts required by federal law to offset unavoidable environmental impacts of the construction activity.

In-Lieu Fee Programs (ILF) were established in 2008 as an instrument of the Army Corps of Engineers to allow Corps permittees to compensate for impacts of their projects which, after all required steps have been taken to avoid or minimize damage to wetlands or aquatic resources, remain unavoidable.

Corps permits are necessary for projects including construction and dredging in the Nation's navigable waters. Adverse impacts to the aquatic environment must be offset by mitigation work, which can include restoring, enhancing, creating and preserving aquatic functions and values.

"This program allows us to pool resources from ILF payments and use them for projects that have the greatest potential to support recovery of Atlantic salmon," said Sean Ledwin, Director of the Sea-Run Fisheries Division at DMR. "The in-lieu-fee program requires that funds paid are used to support other restoration work that results in, at minimum, no net loss of habitat or habitat function. We plan to use the funds to not simply maintain habitat but to restore or enhance salmon habitat in Maine."

Compensation for ASRCP projects will take the form of monetary payments administered by Maine DMR and used for other projects determined to have a high probability of improving habitat and recovery for Atlantic salmon.

The ASRCP program was made possible by an agreement between the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Army Corp of Engineers and the State of Maine, which establishes eligibility standards for construction projects in areas of the state that have historic Atlantic salmon populations. The types of projects that are eligible for the ILF program include stream crossing structure removals, replacements, installations, and maintenance.

Fees will be calculated based on the amount of potential Atlantic salmon habitat impacted and the costs to restore salmon habitat. The more habitat that will be impacted, the higher the fee. "The impacts of each project are generally small while costs for high quality salmon restoration projects can be expensive, so pooling resources to focus on high priority projects makes a lot of sense," said Ledwin.

Another benefit of the program is that it allows for more timely implementation of eligible road-stream crossing construction projects in Maine watersheds where Atlantic salmon are found, and that meet specific criteria. "This will streamline the individual permitting processes for eligible construction projects, saving time and money," said Ledwin.

All ILF payments received by the Department of Marine Resources will be made available as grant awards to projects that restore, establish, enhance, and/or preserve Atlantic Salmon habitat throughout Maine.

Once sufficient funds are available, grant proposals will be solicited and evaluated by a Review Committee, convened by the Maine DMR, and made up of representatives from state and federal agencies. ILF Mitigation Projects will be selected based on an analysis of their ability to compensate for impacts of the projects paying into the program, and to provide significant and broad ecological benefits.

Information on the Maine Atlantic Salmon Restoration and Conservation Program is available online.