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Meridian Institute

Colorado River Basin Stream Mitigation Strategy

Related: Environment and Natural Resources

In Fall 2016, Meridian Institute was asked by the Walton Family Foundation to identify enabling conditions for increasing public and private investment in the mitigation of development-related impacts to rivers and streams in the Colorado River Basin. Section 404 of the Clean Water Act requires the mitigation of permitted impacts, yet the conditions must be right to attract private investment in mitigation projects that contribute to river restoration.

To begin the process, Meridian reviewed literature, regulations, and documents from stream mitigation programs to understand the regulatory and ecological aspects of this topic. Meridian then conducted interviews with approximately 35 key stakeholders and thought leaders to better understand opportunities for and obstacles to investment in stream mitigation projects in the Basin and to hear ideas for how to facilitate and encourage investment.

On March 27–28, 2017, Meridian convened a group of key stakeholders in Denver, Colorado. Those discussions led to the development of high-level strategies for encouraging investment that could be tailored to specific states or regions throughout the Basin, with an initial focus on Colorado.

Two strategies identified during the 2017 meeting included development and implementation of a tool to quantify impacts to rivers and streams, and an assessment of the amount of current and future demand for compensatory stream mitigation, in order to reduce uncertainty and risk for potential investors. With these strategies in mind, Meridian provided oversight for two parallel research projects. The first entailed field testing and desk assessment of a recently released tool to assign debits for impacts and credits for mitigation in the state of Wyoming. The second involved an analysis of current and projected future demand for stream mitigation credits in Colorado.

On March 7-8, 2018, Meridian hosted a second convening of key stakeholders to review the results of these two studies, provide updates regarding progress on current research and initiatives, and identify additional strategies for encouraging investment in stream mitigation.