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DOT to set aside acres for wetland banking

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outdoors Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

PIERRE -- A new approach in protecting the environment is coming to South Dakota. It calls for setting aside acres of land in one area of a watershed for new wetlands to be created. This will offset existing wetlands that could be disturbed or lost in other spots from highway projects.

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Wetland banking is done in other states and now South Dakota plans to start. The state Transportation Commission gave the green light last week.

Brown and Brookings counties would be the first spots where it might be tried.

State Department of Transportation officials are considering general areas north of Aberdeen and near White. DOT is earmarking up to $1,354,000 for land and work.

Joel Jundt, director for DOT's planning and engineering division, said the bank isn't connected to specific projects under construction this summer and would be used for upcoming ones.

"There is a potential for more banks in the future in different watersheds," Jundt said.

DOT hasn't formally constructed any wetlands banks in South Dakota but neighboring states including North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa have used the practice.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommends the practice nationwide, according to Jundt.

He said mitigation on wetlands is a federal requirement any time highway construction causes the loss of wetland areas.

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