RIBITS: Enhancing Transparency and Accountability in Compensatory Mitigation

By Ana AllenJune 27, 2024

RIBITS team gathers at environmental markets conference in Pittsburgh
From left to right, Michelle Thompson, who manages the Help Desk, Shannon Langford, the lead Developer, and Valerie Layne, who manages RIBITS operations, pose for a photo on June 14, 2024 at the Environmental Markets Conference in Pittsburgh in May. The RIBITS team is set to push changes to the website on the 19th, which will result in a slightly different appearance. (Photo by Michelle Mattson) (Photo Credit: Ana Allen) VIEW ORIGINAL

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – (June 27, 2024) RIBITS, an acronym for Regulatory In-lieu fee and Bank Information Tracking System, might sound technical, but its significance is simple: it's a public-facing website that tracks mitigation bank and in-lieu fee (ILF) program activities across the nation for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and other federal agencies.

Mitigation banks and ILF sites offset the environmental impact of development projects that cause losses to aquatic resources under USACE jurisdiction. Each bank and ILF site goes through an approval process with USACE and other federal and state agencies to ensure compliance with regulations and provide appropriate offsets for USACE permits, and possibly for permits from other federal and state agencies as well. These banks and ILF sites offer offsets as credits that may be purchased by developers or project proponents, a practice known as “3rd party mitigation.”

By purchasing credits from a mitigation bank, developers not only fulfill regulatory requirements but also contribute to the conservation and restoration of natural resources. This contribution helps achieve a balance between economic development and environmental stewardship.

RIBITS is the national tracking system that helps ensure 3rd party mitigation projects are completed successfully. Various types of RIBITS users care about compensatory mitigation in different ways. Regulators ensure mitigation work is done according to laws and regulations; project sponsors construct the mitigation, monitor its success, and sell credits; consultants assist their clients with bank and ILF approvals or credit purchases; and members of the public search for credits or simply want to stay informed about compensatory mitigation.

"One of RIBITS' most significant impacts is it sets the standard for transparency of government programs related to compensatory mitigation and ensuring that 3rd party mitigation sponsors are held accountable for the success of their projects," explained Valerie Layne, a USACE-IWR project manager at the Water Resources Center who oversees RIBITS operations.

RIBITS started as a collaboration among several federal agencies. When RIBITS was designated the national tracking system for 3rd party mitigation in 2007, it included the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service conservation banking programs, which track 3rd party mitigation for species under their jurisdiction. These programs also overlap with the USACE program. Other federal agency partners include the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Federal Highways Administration. A U.S. Department of Agriculture water quality trading pilot module was added in 2017, including the states of Iowa, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

Recently, RIBITS gained recognition at the Environmental Permitting Technology and Data Summit at the White House, highlighting its importance in environmental permitting processes. “This acknowledgment highlights the importance of facilitating environmental permitting to achieve clean energy and infrastructure goals," stated Layne. “I thought it was great for RIBITS to be acknowledged in this important national forum as a useful tool in the permitting process. I see it as an opportunity to further modernize RIBITS and improve on its interoperability with other Regulatory systems…to further facilitate USACE’s Regulatory permitting processes,” Layne added.

Looking ahead, the team behind RIBITS aims to continue improving the system by updating its application, enhancing the user interface, and ensuring it meets the evolving needs of the public and regulators. By streamlining data entry and improving accessibility, RIBITS remains committed to its mission of enhancing transparency and accountability in compensatory mitigation efforts nationwide.

Visit the RIBITS website at the following link: https://ribits.ops.usace.army.mil