VSMP Nutrient Credit FAQ

What are nutrient credits?

There are several kinds of nutrient credits. Most commonly, civil engineers and developers purchase phosphorous credits under the Virginia Stormwater Management Program. Site developers can purchase these credits to mitigate stormwater runoff in lieu of constructing onsite best management practice facilities (BMPs).

How are nutrient credits generated?

Nutrient credits are generated and held by “nutrient banks.” There are several ways to create nutrient banks, but the most common method is converting agricultural land to forest. (Agricultural land conversion.) Nutrients associated with the agricultural production stop leaching into water resources, and the cultivation of forest prevents soil erosion and flooding. For information about how BlueLine can help you create a nutrient bank, click here.

Are nutrient credits less expensive than BMPs?

Yes. Purchasing nutrient credits allows site developers to save the expense of designing, permitting, constructing, and maintaining BMP facilities. A study by the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research estimates that purchasing nutrient credits saves, on average, 51% of stormwater compliance costs on VDOT sites.

What projects are eligible to use nutrient credits?

If your development project satisfies any of these requirements, you are eligible to use nutrient credits to fulfill part of your stormwater nutrient reduction quota.

  1. Project site occupies less than 5 acres.
  2. Nutrient reduction quota is less than 10 lbs of phosphorous.
  3. 75% or more of nutrient reduction quota is already met through BMP construction.

If your site satisfies either of the first two requirements, you can purchase nutrient credits to fulfill your entire stormwater nutrient reduction quota!

Can I use nutrient credits to mitigate stormwater quantity?

No. Developers can only use nutrient credits to mitigate the quality of runoff from development site. Furthermore, nutrient credits do not absolve developers from damages to local water quality.

Do nutrient credits help the environment?

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation takes a nuanced approach to nutrient trading, but with the right structure, the CBF endorses nutrient trading as a viable way to reduce nutrient runoff to the Chesapeake Bay. BlueLine brokers nutrient credits and helps create nutrient banks not only because they help reduce pollution of Virginia’s water resources, but also because nutrient banks contribute open forestland to the Virginia landscape.

Are there geographic restrictions on nutrient credits?

Yes. You must purchase nutrient credits within the same watershed as your development project. Additionally, you must purchase credits from a nutrient bank located within the same or adjacent eight-digit HUC area.

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