North Carolina's Ecosystem Enhancement Program (EEP) became operational in July 2003 under an agreement among the N.C. Department of Transportation, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is housed in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
EEP addresses a problem familiar to every state in the nation: achieving responsible economic development while simultaneously protecting the environment. During the mid-1990s, the state began to experience increased project delays in transportation-infrastructure improvements because of shortcomings in meeting federal clean-water permitting requirements.
In response, the state began a process-improvement initiative in 2001 that involved input from 10 state and federal environmental agencies. The task force examined the procedures of two state departments – Transportation, and Environment and Natural Resources – working independently to compensate for development through a process known as mitigation. The panel found significant inefficiency in the old system and recommended a bold new approach.
Through EEP, North Carolina addresses the challenge of balancing needed growth with environmental protection by making the state’s environmental agency – not its transportation agency – the watchdog over offsetting the unavoidable environmental impacts of new transportation infrastructure. And, in carrying out this mission, North Carolina bases its mitigation on a solid foundation of watershed planning that transcends environmental-permitting compliance.