The LSU AgCenter is expected to select a partner in the coming days to redevelop 400 acres of university-owned property in St. Gabriel into a wetlands mitigation bank.
Several teams responded in late December to LSU’s Solicitation for Offers for a private partner—presumably an engineering or environmental services firm with expertise in wetlands—to work with the AgCenter in helping return the site to its natural wetlands state.
As a mitigation bank, the property, located on both sides of Highway 30 near the intersection of Highway 74, could be used as a teaching and research tool and also as a revenue generator.
“We’ve had several good offers, so we’re very encouraged,” says LSU AgCenter spokesperson Hampton Grunewald.
A mitigation bank is a wetlands area that has been restored, established or preserved to compensate for future conversions of wetlands for development activities. Under the federal program, developers can purchase “credits” from a mitigation bank to offset the loss of wetlands they will destroy elsewhere in the course of land development.
AgCenter officials began exploring the idea of converting the St. Gabriel site to a mitigation bank in response to ongoing budget cuts in recent years and the need to sell off or monetize surplus property.
In the process, they realized creating a mitigation bank could serve as a living laboratory that university researchers and students alike could use to study various aspects of wetlands restoration.
The mitigation bank could also generate tens of millions of dollars for the LSU AgCenter, though it’s too soon to estimate how much.
Grunewald could not discuss the numbers in any of the offers or who is on the pitching teams, but he says the committee could select a partner as soon as Thursday, though the selection process may require holding a second meeting after Easter. Either way, he expects the center to select a partner by the end of the month. A contract would then have to be negotiated and approved by the LSU Board of Supervisors.