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 ELI State Wetland Protection: Status, Trends, & Model Approaches
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Original Wetland Acreage Remaining Wetland Acreage Acreage Lost % Lost
20,325,013 11,038,300 9,286,713 -46%


Florida Wetlands: Palustrine forested wetlands cover 5.5 million acres, nearly one-half the acreage of all Florida wetlands. These wetlands, which are widely distributed throughout the State, fringe rivers and lakes, line small drainages and sloughs, form in small depressions and ponds, and cover wet flatwoods. Lacustrine and riverine wetlands constitute a relatively small part of Florida’s wetlands.

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Summary Features Regulation Water Quality Standards Mitigation Monitoring and Assessment Restoration Public/Private Partnerships





Overall Program:

Florida has a comprehensive state regulatory program that regulates most land (upland, wetland, and other surface water) alterations throughout the state.  The regulatory program also includes a federal State Programmatic General Permit (SPGP) and implementation of a statewide National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program.  In addition activities located on or using state-owned sovereign submerged lands also require applicable proprietary authorizations (including Consents of Use, Leases, and Easements).  Major features of this program are described under Wetland Regulatory Statutes.

Innovative Features and New Programs/Initiatives:

  • The comprehensive nature of the state program is broader than the federal program in that it also regulates alterations of uplands that may affect surface water flows, including addressing issues of flooding and stormwater treatment;
  • The state program is in addition to, not in place of or superseded by the federal dredge and fill permit programs.  There are no thresholds wherein some activities are reviewed by the state and others by the federal government.  In essence applicants must get all applicable permits and authorizations from both the state and the federal government before beginning work;
  • The division of responsibilities between the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the water management districts (who have regional ad valorum taxing authority);
  • The linkage of the state regulatory and proprietary programs discussed above;
  • A wetland delineation methodology ratified under state law that is binding on all state, regional, and local governments throughout Florida.  This methodology is specific to Florida, and differs from the federal wetland delineation methodology (see below);
  • A statewide mitigation banking program implemented by the DEP and three of the state’s five water management districts;
  • Environmental Resource Permits (ERP) are permits that are valid for the life of the system (includes all structures and works authorized for construction or land alteration).  The ERP permit does not automatically expire after the construction phase (typically a five-year period), and continues to cover operation (use of) of the system;
  • A program to authorize regional mitigation for Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Projects (see below);
  • A joint permit application form, wherein applicants for a federal dredge and fill permit apply directly to either the DEP or the applicable water management district using the same form that is used for the state ERP or wetland resource permit.  The DEP and the water management districts then forward the application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for concurrent federal permit processing (which can only be issued after issuance of the applicable state permit that grants or waives water quality certification);
  • A program that regulates the trimming or alteration of mangroves;
  • The issuance of a (SPGP) from the Corps to the DEP that provides that certain activities (such as docks, seawalls, dredging, and activities that qualify for state exemptions or general permits) that qualify under the state regulatory program also will receive the associated federal dredge and fill permit; and
  • A limited delegation of the ERP program from the DEP and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to Broward County.

State Wetland Conservation Plan

Florida has its independent statutes and rules governing activities in wetlands, as described above.  Although Florida’s program essentially contains all the required elements of a State Wetland Conservation Plan, Florida has never packaged the program for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review and sign-off.  Therefore, Florida does not operate under an EPA-approved State Wetland Conservation plan at this time.

No Net Loss/Net Gain Goal

Florida does not have a goal of no net loss or gain of wetland acreage.  However, the regulatory rules are written so as to be implemented in a manner that achieves a programmatic goal, and a project permitting goal, of no net loss in wetland or other surface water functions (not including activities that are exempt from regulation or that are authorized through a noticed general permit).  An ERP permit standard is that activities must not adversely impact the value of functions provided to fish and wildlife and listed species by wetlands and other surface waters.  The wetland resource permit program does not actually contain the above stated goals, but operates such that an activity must not be contrary to the public interest, which typically includes offsetting wetland impacts.  The applicable evaluation criteria will be discussed below.