In the environmental and engineering worlds, the word “mitigation” is thrown around fairly often. Wetland mitigation, mitigation banks, flood mitigation. So what does it mean?
The word itself basically means “to make less harsh.” Lots of industries use the word for different reasons but when it comes to the environment/engineering industries, it’s used to describe something that balances the damage to the environment that might be done by a construction project.
Let’s look at a hypothetical example. A community is in desperate need of a road expansion to replace a road that is unsafe and too small for the amount of traffic it sees every day. To complete the expansion, the road must go through a small wetland area. Following an extensive permitting process, the project is approved. However, the community must mitigate the impacts the project will have on the wetlands by purchasing credits from a wetlands mitigation bank. Essentially, the community will purchase parts of a wetland in another area (and in the same watershed as the project) to keep it preserved, in order to “mitigate” the project’s impact to wetlands. Another form of mitigation is “on-site mitigation” in which the community or property owner can create and/or restore a wetland area on their property, provided there is enough space and proper ecology/habitat to do so. The environmental permitting agencies (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Environmental Quality, etc), however, prefer that mitigation is provided via the purchase of wetland credits from a mitigation bank.
And that’s your lessen for the day! Keep in mind, this is an oversimplified explanation of the whole process, but I think it gets the point across! When it comes to protecting our environment, while still moving forward with expanding and improving our communities, mitigation seems to provide a healthy balance.