By ANDY GARDNER
Monies the Massena Town Council decided last week to spend on a Ducks Unlimited wetland mitigation program will go toward local wetland restoration, according to officials from the group.
Because the town’s improvement projects at Massena International Airport disturb the local wetland habitat, they are required by law to mitigate the damage.
“Ducks Unlimited is required to spend the money in the same service area as it is paid in,” Ducks Unlimited Mitigation Program Manager Pete Wyckoff said Tuesday.
Rather than spend a vast amount on a wetland mitigation contractor, the town is participating in a program where they buy wetland mitigation credits. The Army Corps of Engineers plans and outlines the project; they in turn contract with Ducks Unlimited, which does the actual restoration.
Wyckoff said Ducks Unlimited has designated regions for wetland mitigation. Massena is located in the Eastern St. Lawrence River region, which they have labeled a high-priority region. It includes portions of St. Lawrence, Franklin, and Clinton counties.
“It’s an excellent area for wetlands … there’s a lot of wildlife,” Ducks Unlimited Regional Communications Manager Kristin Schrader said in a phone interview.
Prior to voting in favor of it, Councilman John Macaulay had voiced skepticism about the program, stating he was under the impression that the money could go toward mitigation anywhere in the United States.
“I think Councilman Macaulay might be familiar with Ducks Unlimited’s general conservation work, and in that case we do send resources to waterfowl priority areas … the wetland restoration that is funded by the credit purchase would definitely be in New York, and in this region of New York,” Schrader wrote in an email.
“Anytime somebody buys a credit from us it is our duty and responsibility to provide mitigation in a reasonable amount of time,” Schrader said Tuesday. She added that the project will not likely begin until the spring due to North Country winter conditions.
She says the deal is a win – win for Massena and Ducks Unlimited.
Officials from both bodies have said this way is significantly cheaper than hiring a contractor.
“Instead of creating wetlands on their own and monitoring it for five to 10 years and making sure it’s done right and having the liability associated with it, the town of Massena can pay a one-time fee and Ducks Unlimited does all the work,” Wyckoff said.
Massena’s project “made perfect sense” for the joint the mitigation program because, according to Schrader, it’s an area where Ducks Unlimited wants to do work.
“It allows us to deliver projects in the areas we’d like to fund anyways,” Schrader said, adding that funding can be hard to come by since the group is non-profit.