Two bills making their way through the House and Senate, HB 7043 and SB 1402, put Florida’s wetlands at risk.
These bills begin the process of delegating federal wetlands permitting and enforcement authority, under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, to the State of Florida. The federal government currently has permitting authority under the 404 program for large landscape conversion projects, such as housing developments and sprawling phosphate mines, that affect wetlands. The Florida Conservation Coalition is concerned that if Florida assumes responsibility for this permitting program, our wetlands will lose critical protections.
SB 1402 will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources Wednesday, February 14th, at 1:30 PM. Please call the members of this Subcommittee and ask them to vote NO on SB 1402 on Wednesday. Don't hesitate to leave a message if you need to.
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources
Senator Lauren Book (Chair), (850) 487 - 5032, Book.firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Dorothy L. Hukill (Vice Chair), (850) 487 - 5014, Hukill.email@example.com
Senator Oscar Braynon II, (850) 487 - 5035, Braynon.firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Rene Garcia, (850) 487 - 5036, Garcia.email@example.com
Senator Travis Hutson, (850) 487 - 5007, Hutson.firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Debbie Mayfield, (850) 487 - 5017, Mayfield.email@example.com
Senator Linda Stewart, (850) 487 - 5013, Stewart.firstname.lastname@example.org
In order to assume responsibility for the 404 program, the State must negotiate contracts with federal agencies and adopt rules outlining how it will duplicate the federal program. These contracts and rules will be finalized well after SB 1402 becomes law. Supporting SB 1402 at this time is akin to signing a contract without knowing what’s in it. The public has no idea whether or not SB 1402 will lead to a state wetlands permitting program that will be as protective as the current federal program. And they will have no formal opportunities to review and comment on the proposed structure of the state 404 program in its entirety.
Given the comprehensive nature of the federal 404 permitting program, however, it is likely that delegating the program will result in weakened protection for Florida’s wetlands. The broadest protections for our wetlands exist in federal law and have no counterpart in Florida. While the State may adopt rules to consider the same factors as the federal government when reviewing a permit, they will not complete as thorough or extensive a review as federal agencies do under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and thus will make permitting decisions with far less data. Additionally, their decisions will be made without the benefit of federal court review.
Finally, the Florida Conservation Coalition is concerned that Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) may not have the resources to administer the 404 program. The budget for DEP was slashed by 25% last year, and the federal government will not provide any funds to Florida to take on the new responsibility of 404 permitting and enforcement.
Florida’s wetlands are too important to place at unnecessary risk. Use the button below to write a message to the members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources, asking them to vote NO on SB 1402.
Why Care About Wetlands?
Wetlands are crucial to the sustainability of our state. Wetlands:
- Protect our water supply by routing water into the aquifers that provide 90% of our drinking water.
- Filter pollutants from stormwater before they reach our aquifers, rivers, lakes, and springs.
- Provide significant flood protection; each acre of wetland can store 1-1.5 million gallons of floodwater.
- Provide habitat for many of the state’s imperiled species from the Everglades snail kite to the Florida panther.
Protecting wetlands is far cheaper than constructing water treatment plants or water storage reservoirs to replicate the services Florida’s wetlands provide naturally.
Please call and write to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources before their February 14 meeting. If you’re interested in reading more about FCC’s concerns with HB 7043/SB 1402, click here.
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