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Unique wetlands research project earns Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council recognition

TAMPA – The Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County (EPC), in partnership with Dr. Aaron Brown representing the University of South Florida (USF) and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), and Dr. Kim Haag of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), received the prestigious Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council’s (TBRPC) Future of the Region Award for Natural Environment at an awards luncheon held on May 18, 2018.

The TBRPC awards are among the highest honors presented in the Tampa Bay area and they highlight “projects and programs that exemplify regionalism, and recognize[] outstanding achievements and contributions that benefit the regional community.” Award categories include Built Environment; Community Preparedness; Community Service; Economy and Energy; Natural Environment; and Transportation and Mobility.

The Natural Environment recognition was presented to the EPC and its research partners for a first-of-a-kind wetlands study conducted in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funded the $227K study which assessed the effectiveness of permitting, monitoring, and compliance activities involving freshwater wetland mitigation projects in Hillsborough County. It also identified environmental factors that may improve mitigation design, evaluation, and long-term success over time. Such factors include diverse planting plans which utilize native species identified during the wetlands survey process; encouraging designs that maximize wetland areas; and establishing control structures that do not require maintenance, such as earthen berms and weirs.

Since the inception of the EPC’s Wetlands program, there has been no net loss of wetlands in the County. The EPC is utilizing the research results and recommendations to continue improving the quality and success of the wetland mitigation projects it regulates.