OKI tool for wetlands mitigation finds plenty of uses, including in bat research
What was specifically designed as an easy way for developers to identify federally mandated environmental mitigation projects is becoming useful to all kinds of organizations.
The Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) developed the online tool called The Environmental Mitigation Sustainability Modeler (EMSM) a year ago.
It has multiple layers the user can choose to identify certain types of property. Margaret Minzner demonstrated it for WVXU and chose impaired waters, parcels with streams and close to parks.
"You can see those red hot-spot areas are great areas to start focusing your efforts," she says. "So, you can see right away, 'Here's some places where I might want to focus on stream restoration projects.' "
Under the Clean Water Act, if a new development is going to damage the environment, that company must buy credits to offset it. The hope is the mitigation will be local, but's that's not always easy. Take Amazon Air's new facility in Hebron — Minzner called the amount of mitigation required there astronomical.
Minzner says this online tool covers the eight-county OKI region. She has demonstrated it at national conferences and there is plenty of interest.
New categories include environmental justice and tree canopy data
In just a few months OKI will update the online tool to include more categories. "The U.S. EPA added some environmental justice layers, so we’ll be adding some of those as well as the climate and economic justice screening tool. And one of the cool things that we’ll have is updated tree canopy data from Northern Kentucky."
Minzer is thrilled other groups, other than developers are making use of the website.
She says Green Umbrella may use it to identify priority areas for regional green space. The Boone County Conservation District is using it for bat research.
"They (Butler County) just put it in the categories that they thought would be most representative of where they would expect to find bats. And then they overlaid roads and tried to find accessible sites to set up their sub-acoustic monitoring equipment," she says.
"I think the tool’s potential is unlimited," she adds.