More than forty dignitaries including U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Army Corps District Engineer Colonel Charles Samaris, State Representatives Mary Mushinsky and Tom Vicino and Audubon Connecticut Board Chair Marty Cannon gathered yesterday at the state Capitol to witness the establishment of a new initiative between Audubon Connecticut and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed to help conserve wetlands in the state of Connecticut. Signing the agreement were U.S. Army Corps District Engineer Colonel Charles Samaris, National Audubon Society Vice President Francis Grant-Suttie and Audubon Connecticut Director of Bird Conservation Patrick Comins.
The Connecticut In-Lieu Fee Program is a highly innovative public and private partnership that is expected to provide substantial funding for the restoration, enhancement and preservation of aquatic habitats and their upland buffers in the state. The program will receive its funding from application fees paid to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for development projects impacting wetlands and watercourses. Audubon Connecticut will work with local, state and national partners to select and fund large-scale mitigation projects including land acquisition.
"We're excited to partner with Audubon Connecticut on this important ILF program,” said U.S. Army Corps District Engineer Colonel Charles Samaris. “The program offers Department of the Army permit applicants another option to compensate for project impacts on aquatic resources. The program funds larger projects that can more broadly benefit Connecticut's aquatic resources, and relieves applicants of the responsibility to develop, perform and monitor their own mitigation projects."
"The ILF Program offers an intelligent framework for Audubon Connecticut and our partners to achieve significant conservation in and around our state. The habitats addressed by this program are essential to birds, other wildlife and people. This represents an important step forward in restoring and preserving the ecosystems that are critical to a sustainable environment," said Marty Cannon, Audubon Connecticut’s board chair.
The signing ceremony at the state Capitol on Wednesday marked the result of three years of negotiations between Audubon Connecticut and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“I applaud this agreement by the U.S. Army Corps and Audubon Connecticut,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. “This is a public-private partnership in the true sense of the word – between a federal agency and one of the oldest conservation organizations in the nation. Audubon brings more than a hundred years of experience protecting habitat and wildlife to this effort. Their expertise, along with that of the other partners, will help expand the ability of the U.S. Army Corps to protect the waters, wetlands and associated uplands of our state. The program will provide benefits both in terms of helping to simplify the proposal and permitting process, and in terms of providing an ongoing source of funds to accomplish meaningful, environmental mitigation including the restoration and permanent protection of habitat throughout Connecticut. I look forward to the successful implementation of this program.”
"The In-Lieu Fee Program adds another tool to our toolbox when we try to reduce the impact of necessary projects in our state," said State Senator Edward Meyer. "It brings together not only Audubon and the U.S. Army Corps, but also DEEP, other federal agencies and non-profit conservation groups to ensure that the mitigation supported by this program provides a significant benefit to our state’s natural resources. The program will help us address the impacts of state, municipal and private projects and expand Connecticut’s land conservation and restoration efforts as well. Congratulations to Audubon and the U.S. Army Corps.”