Brown County land could be set aside for new wetlands

Farm Forum

PIERRE – A new approach in protecting the environment is coming to South Dakota, and Brown County is at the front of the line.

Wetland banking calls for setting aside acres of land in one area of a watershed for new wetlands to be created, in order to offset existing wetlands that could be disturbed or lost in other spots from highway projects.

The approach is done in other states and now South Dakota plans to start. The state Transportation Commission recently gave the green light.

Brown and Brookings counties would be the first spots where it might be tried. State Department of Transportation officials are considering general areas north of Aberdeen and near White. DOT is earmarking up to $1,354,000 for land and work.

Joel Jundt said the bank isn’t connected to specific projects under construction this summer and would be used for upcoming ones. He is director for DOT’s planning and engineering division.

“There is a potential for more banks in the future in different watersheds,” Jundt said.

DOT hasn’t formally constructed any wetlands banks in South Dakota but neighboring states including North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa have used the practice.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommends the practice nationwide, according to Jundt. He said mitigation on wetlands is a federal requirement any time that highway construction causes the loss of wetland areas.