Establishing Mitigation Project Protocol
The first thing everyone involved in a stream or wetland mitigation project should do is establish the project goals. The initial meeting invitation should include a specific request for a list of goals. You need the project manager, the engineer, the hydrology expert, the contract enforcement monitor, the regulatory officials, and the ecology specialist in the same room at least once to establish this. Be sure to include the landscape architect and pragmatic plant experts in this meeting! It will save huge amounts of mitigation money later.
Once in the meeting, the vegetative mitigation plan designer should speak up when the conversation turns to planting restoration. Ask about the available budget, the maximum slopes allowed, the needed land purchases required, responsibilities for design plans, installation monitoring, plant maintenance, scheduling deadlines, and specifications needed.
A commitment to keep everyone in the loop during the project progression is important, with a clear Project Manager as the communication touchstone for all activity. Emails and documents should include the unique project number, to avoid confusion. Review comments can steer the project from potential pitfalls. Establish reviews throughout the design phase—concept, preliminary, final, and whenever edits are made to the plans. Pass around copies of a sign in sheet in review meetings, with contact information distributed at the end of the meeting. Review meetings are a good time to get to know everybody in other disciplines and establish good working relationships.
Remember early in the planning process to:
• Ask for reviews early and often and follow up recommendations for edits with plan revisions.
• Include early cost estimates for construction design bids that include vegetative mitigation design and field monitoring costs, even though environmental surveys haven’t been done. For almost every large-scale construction or road project, you should expect streams to be impacted.
• Provide project specific Scope of Services statements in Job Orders /Task Orders that include vegetative mitigation design responsibilities.
• Assign who on the team will design vegetative mitigation plans.
• Mentor new designers and consultant staff, and enjoy the process of sharing what works.
• Expect to provide plant material cost estimates for your project engineering contract services group.
• Explain to the team that planting will need to take place during the dormant season.
• Make it clear the contractor has full maintenance responsibility until the project ends.
• Establish the estimated time period for the project, including ample time for establishment of plant material, usually two or three years.
You can find more information about trees in The Advanced Guide to Environmental Mitigation Planting: Healing Disturbed SItes, part of The Advanced Guide series.