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The Cobbs Creek Foundation’s creek restoration plans received a $3.5 million boost in state funds from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Project (RACP) grant program in November. The RACP program funds “the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical improvement projects,” according to its website.

In a minor win for neighborhood advocates critical of the golf course renovation, the United States Army Corps of Engineers has extended the comment period for an application from First Pennsylvania Resource, LLC, a stream and wetlands restoration contractor for the Cobbs Creek Foundation in its renovations at the Cobbs Creek golf courses, to have the restored stream and wetlands serve as a mitigation bank. The Corps has pushed the due date for comments back to January 20, 2023, “in response to numerous requests from the surrounding community,” according to the public notice of the extension.

Illustrated map of the Delaware River Basin courtesy of Delaware River Basin Commission.

The permit would allow other developers that destroy or degrade streams and wetlands in the same watershed (the “Southern Portion, Lower Delaware River Sub-basin”) to pay to use the work done on the golf course to mitigate those losses.

When a developer destroys or degrades wetlands or streams in the course of construction, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requires them to mitigate the loss by creating new streams or wetlands somewhere else in the watershed. Sometimes the same developer or entity creates the new wetland or stream, as the Philadelphia International Airport is doing at FDR Park to mitigate wetland loss in the cargo facilities expansion. They also have the option to pay in order to have streams or wetlands restored somewhere else in the watershed or to buy credits for work that has already been completed.

On the flip side, when developers improve waterways or create wetlands, they can offer them as “mitigation credits” that other developers can buy, creating what is called a mitigation bank. The application for the golf course project is to allow the creek and wetlands restoration underway there to be such a mitigation bank.

As Grid has reported, flooding is one of the main reasons the golf course needed a renovation in the first place, and the creek restoration (including wetlands creation) is critical to the golf course renovation. The City signed a $1, 30-year lease (70 years with renewals, and with no competing bids) with the newly formed and politically connected Cobbs Creek Foundation, which is based in West Conshohocken. According to the lease, the foundation was supposed to pay for the creek restoration itself (including with funds from the sale of mitigation credits), but that hasn’t stopped Philadelphia Parks & Recreation from gifting $3 million of capital budget funds to the foundation for creek restoration.

If you missed the original deadline, you can weigh in at napregulatory@usace.army.mil.

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