North Carolina's Ecosystem Enhancement Program

Even before Federal Highway Administration’s focus on ecosystem conservation as part of its vital few
goals, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) had begun to examine how and where
compensatory mitigation was being implemented in North Carolina. Over the last four years, NCDOT,
the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR), and the United States
Army Corps of Engineers – Wilmington District (USACE) have partnered to redesign the mitigation
process with one goal in mind: to create a compensatory mitigation program that delivers guaranteed
environmental benefits. The result of these efforts is the Ecosystem Enhancement Program (EEP). Rather
than focusing on individual highway project impacts, the EEP concept revolves around watershed plans
and considers cumulative impacts associated with a given watershed. Accordingly, the EEP provides
cumulative mitigation for cumulative impacts. It was clear from the start that EEP was going to change
fundamentally the goals, approach, and structure of providing mitigation in North Carolina. While the
mitigation experts knew how the mitigation process needed to change, they lacked expertise in how to
manage that change. Not surprisingly, this has presented several hurdles that the sponsoring agencies are
still trying to scale today. As implementation moves forward, many valuable lessons are being learned,
which are laying the groundwork for successful change.