ICYMI: EPIC & ERBA Announce Release of MBI Timelines Report Phase II
We are pleased to announce the release earlier today of the Second Phase of an joint report between ERBA and EPIC regarding hurdles and suggestions on mitigation bank approval timelines. You can view the report on ERBA’s website here and also via the link highlighted below. In March 2023, the ERBA and the Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC) released a report providing the results of an analysis of Corps ORM data on mitigation bank approval timelines (Martin and Madsen 2023). The main finding of that first report was that the Corps was not meeting the 225-day approval requirement from the 2008 Mitigation Rule. However, that data analysis did not address the reasons why on average it took nearly 1100 days of Corps and Sponsor processing to approve mitigation banks.
The second phase of the analysis of bank approval timelines can be found at https://bit.ly/mitigationbankresearchPhase2. This second report attempts to identify those aspects of the bank approval process that districts were handling well, bottlenecks in the bank approval process, and recommendations for improving the bank approval process. This research included in-depth informational interviews with 19 mitigation bank sponsors representing 70 banks in 17 Corps Districts across the U.S. The analysis only includes the perspective of bank sponsors. The authors were unable to interview counterpart Corps regulators.
The time you took as ERBA members to participate in interviews and to provide feedback throughout the report development process is greatly appreciated. The authors endeavored to include recommendations that ERBA had previously made to the Corps for improving the bank approval process.
The following bottlenecks in the bank approval process identified in this Phase 2 analysis included:
- Lack of staff and other staffing issues such as staff turnover, staff lacking time dedicated to the approval process, and staff lacking subject matter expertise in mitigation banking.
- Not sticking to the timelines, in part due to a lack of Corps’ prioritization of instrument reviews.
- Lack of consistency and standardization, and requirements or “asks” that were added to existing guidelines, templates, or SOPs.
- Lack of decisiveness in the approval process, leading to drawn-out back-and-forth requests.
- Lack of Corps leadership with the IRT leading to added time reaching 100% agreement rather than seeking consensus.
- Delays from Corps counsel review.
This report provides detailed recommendations to address each of these bottlenecks. The report’s analysis is neutral. However, both EPIC and ERBA may note their opinion in related blog posts and news releases.
We sincerely hope the authors will be allowed to interview the corresponding Corps mitigation leads to provide a more balanced context for this qualitative analysis in the future. Authors Martin and Madsen are planning to present on their latest research findings during ERBA’s upcoming Seventh Annual Policy Conference later this month in DC, and we also expect several speakers from the Corps to react to the Report’s findings during their conference remarks. There is still time to register for the conference, and find out more information here: 2023 Policy Conference (ecologicalrestoration.org)