The Board of Supervisors this week created a wetlands preservation fund that will put penalty money paid by developers who destroy marginal wetlands into a program that protects more ecologically valuable areas.
The $50,000 per acre that developers pay when their projects tread on wetlands will now be set aside to help fragile land in parks or nature preserves, said Robert G. Fisher, director of the county's harbors, beaches and parks division.
Fisher said the program will not give developers free rein to build on wetlands, nor will it help them sidestep the variety of federal and state environmental regulations already protecting sensitive areas.
The program recognizes the fact that all wetlands were not created equal, Fisher said, nor are they equally valuable.
"Fragmented, small wetlands spring up sometimes when an area is cleared and runoff (water) from nearby comes in," Fisher said, citing the extreme example of a mini-wetlands he once saw created on a large, freshly graded lot by a neighbor's sprinklers. "It creates a kind of accidental wetland that may not be long term or valuable to the habitat."
Allowing development on these fragmented areas does not harm the wetlands system, and it will generate money that will help county parks officials to dedicate more resources to maintaining larger, established wetlands. "It's a win-win situation," Fisher said.