Firms interested in partnering with the LSU AgCenter to redevelop a 400-acre site in St. Gabriel into a wetlands mitigation bank are touring the property this morning to gather information to prepare their responses to the university’s recently issued Solicitation for Offers.
The AgCenter is seeking a private partner—presumably an engineering or environmental services firm with expertise in wetlands—to help return the site to its natural wetlands state. As a mitigation bank, the property, located on both sides of La. 30 near the intersection of La. 74, could become a teaching and research tool and a revenue generator.
Earlier this month, the university issued a Solicitation for Offers that has generated a lot of interest, says Rogers Leonard, associate vice president for agriculture and natural resources. Leonard was expecting to have a better handle on how many offers it should expect to receive after today’s site visit, which was mandatory for prospective bidders.
“We’ve had questions from a number of groups so we know there’s a lot of interest,” he says. “After this tour we should know just how many groups are seriously interested in working with us on this project.”
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 a federal program, developers can purchase “credits” from a mitigation bank to offset the loss of wetlands destroyed elsewhere in the course of development.
LSU 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 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 Leonard says its soon to estimate how much.
“It just depends on what projects are getting done and how many credits the developers need to buy,” he says.
Based on the timeline in the procurement documents, Leonard hopes to have a partner selected by late March or early April. Developing the bank will likely take several years to complete and is contingent on approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.