Located along the southeastern coastal plan, St. Johns County has an array of existing natural wetland features. Some wetlands are created over time as low areas between dune systems or other low features relative to other areas of the land. Federal and State laws require any new roadway, commercial, residential or industrial development projects to identify wetland areas within the property and show which areas will be preserved or impacted as part of a required development permit. As a part of the design of a proposed development, the unavoidable wetland impact areas must be evaluated to make sure remaining wetland areas can still function or the impacts are offset in other areas. A wetland enhancement, restoration, creation or preservation project that serves to offset unavoidable wetland impacts is known as mitigation. Mitigation activities may be either onsite or in special offsite mitigation sites where a developer can purchase credits from mitigation “banks.” Mitigation must also take place within the same regulatory drainage basin as the impacts.
Most wetland impacts that result from road projects which do not allow for on-site mitigation. Mitigation banks that can be used for County projects are costly. When St. Johns County has a new project, including new roads, it must provide the mitigation for any wetland impacts just like any other development.