The state of North Carolina is committed to balancing responsible development and environmental protection. A state of vast natural resources and a growing economy, North Carolina's quality of life has spurred growth, bringing the need for appropriate transportation infrastructure and overall economic development to accommodate a burgeoning population.
During the mid-1990s, most compensatory mitigation was implemented by permit applicants (permittee provided mitigation). Unfortunately, the success rates of such efforts were often poor during this period with as much as one-half of all projects failing to meet success criteria. In 1997, the legislature founded the Wetlands Restoration Program, a wetlands-oriented mitigation program for development under the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR). WRP gave permittees an alternative mitigation option and allowed state to improve the science and success of mitigation projects and to utilize watershed planning to focus the projects in the areas of the state where they were most needed.
During the late 1990s, the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) began to experience increased project delays in its transportation-infrastructure program because of unavoidable environmental impacts in its development projects. In 1999, NCDOT begain utilizing WRP to meet a portion of its mitigation needs. The NCDOT and NCDENR mitigation programs functioned independently with different operating processes, a situation that failed to meet the satisfaction of either federal and state regulatory agencies, or environmental interest groups. (NOTE: WRP was absorbed into EEP.)