Senate report cites inconsistencies in statewide wetlands and stormwater permitting

Sep 1, 2011

The following article was published in the Florida Current on September 1, 2011:

Senate report cites inconsistencies in statewide wetlands and stormwater permitting

By Bruce Ritchie 

A Senate committee is recommending that a statewide rule be developed for Florida’s combined wetlands and stormwater permitting program to eliminate inconsistencies among water management districts.

The Environmental Resource Permit (ERP) was adopted in 1995. It combined separate wetlands and stormwater permitting programs with the state’s sovereign submerged lands program.

The program was adopted at that time by four of the state’s five water management districts. The Northwest Florida Water Management District was directed by the Legislature to adopt the program in 2006 in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Protection.

The Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation interim report  says the permitting program at DEP and the Northwest Florida Water Management District is more streamlined and efficient. While wetlands permitting is essentially identical among the other districts, stormwater management permitting differs substantially, the report said.

Business representatives say those differences lead to vast differences in cost for stormwater management among districts. A company that opens three stores near each other in different districts will likely have to submit three separate permit applications and may face different construction and compliance costs.

A department spokeswoman said late Thursday she was unable to provide immediate comment on the Senate report because it had just been issued. Last week, DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard said providing regulatory consistency is a top priority of the department. 

“Unless there is a regional geological difference that requires it [permitting differences], folks shouldn’t have to feel like they need an interpreter if they go across one water management district to the next,” Vinyard said. 

Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper said Thursday he would like to see more consistency in the permitting if the state adopts the most protective standards and most open processes now used at the districts.

“We hope we won’t end up with the least protective rule and we hope we don’t end up with a process that provides the least amount of public participation,” he said.

A separate issue brief published by the Senate Transportation Committee outlines an eight-year process for developing and permitting stormwater treatment ponds for road projects. That issue brief does not include recommendations.

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