Federal Court Ruling Could Compel FL to Pause on Permitting Dredge and Fill of Wetlands

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WetlandsSWFWMD In: Federal Court Ruling Could Compel FL to Pause on Permitting Dredge and Fill of Wetlands | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
Wetlands. Source: Southwest Florida Water Management District

Great news from a federal judge in Arizona who revoked the recent ruling that  allowed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, (DEP) to take on the work of the Army Corps of Engineers in approving permits to dredge and fill wetlands.

We have posted earlier on this terrible idea which fast tracks permits for developers to destroy more wetlands that our DEP will not protect.  The DEP is unable to meet the challenges it already faces in fulfilling its mission.

A quick look at the record will show that our aquifer is declining, the flow of our rivers and springs is declining, and the pollution is rising, and the DEP chooses to allow this.

Public comment, including some from OSFR members,  was overwhelmingly opposed to this ill-fated and unnecessary change.

Read the original article here at Florida Phoenix.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
[email protected]
– A river is like a life: once taken,
it cannot be brought back © Jim Tatum


 

Federal court ruling could compel FL to pause on permitting dredge and fill of wetlands

By: Laura Cassels – September 7, 2021 5:38 pm

Protecting wetlands and waterways should not be at the broad discretion of states such as Florida that were granted permitting authority in the final days of the Trump administration, says a national environmental law organization, citing a sweeping Aug. 31 federal ruling limiting states’ authority.

The ruling in U.S. District Court in Arizona tosses out the federal “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” (NWPR) that limited which waters are subject to regulation under Section 404 of the federal Clean Water Act.  Judge Rosemary Marquez ordered the rule be vacated, restoring a previous rule that requires protective regulation of many more bodies of water than did the new rule.

With that new NWPR vacated, some recent Florida-based decisions about dredging and filling wetlands are unlawful, contends Earthjustice, which wants the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to hit pause on state-authorized dredging and filling until those activities are reviewed in light of the federal ruling.

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In a separate lawsuit filed in January, Earthjustice challenges a Trump-era decision to transfer wetlands permitting from the U.S. Corps of Engineers to the State of Florida, which a group of prominent environmental groups say would be less protective. That suit, still pending, seeks to strip the state of its newly granted authority over wetlands permitting and give it back to federal authorities.

While Florida remains in charge of wetlands permitting for now, Earthjustice cautioned new Florida DEP Secretary Shawn Hamilton that the Aug. 31 federal ruling curtails the state’s power and renders some state-issued permits unlawful….

“The court’s vacatur of the NWPR as unlawful requires that DEP immediately re-assess the scope of waterways in Florida covered by Section 404,” the letter continues. “This will have considerable impacts in Florida and on the state’s duties under federal law. It is therefore critical that DEP act immediately to ensure protection of all waterways covered by the Clean Water Act.”

Specifically, the letter urges Hamilton to immediately notify the regulated community – aka developers – of the Aug. 31 court ruling and its ramifications for their projects; block dredging and filling of projects that are rendered unlawful under the new rules; and stop issuing permits pending further review of the state’s jurisdiction.

DEP has not yet replied to a request for comment.

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