Water-Related News

Florida moving ahead to take over federal wetlands permitting

Environmental groups cry foul over a developer-backed effort that began under Rick Scott.

For decades Florida’s developers have pushed for the state to take over from the federal government issuing permits for filling wetlands. On Wednesday, the state took a crucial step toward fulfilling that wish — much to the dismay of the state’s environmental groups.

The state Department of Environmental Protection published a pair of legal notices for changes to its regulations that lay the groundwork for the state’s takeover of wetlands permitting from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Only two other states have taken that step.

“This rule is just one step in the process for the state to assume authority to administer the dredge and fill permitting program under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act,” the state’s notice says. The move is subject to the approval of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Environmental groups ranging from the Florida Wildlife Federation to the Miami Riverkeeper blasted the proposal, which they predict will lead to a weakening of protection for the state’s marshes, bogs, swamps and other wetlands.

“The Florida Department of Environmental Protection doesn’t have the proper capacity to take over the wetlands permitting that has been run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for decades," said Tania Galloni, managing attorney for the Florida office of the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice. "It can’t even manage to enforce the environmental laws already under its purview.”

Florida's chief science officer says we need to reduce carbon emissions

“Ultimately we’re going to have to reduce carbon emissions to reduce warming and its effects,” Florida Chief Science Officer Thomas Frazer said Tuesday before a speech in Sarasota.

Florida’s new chief science officer spoke about the need to reduce nutrient pollution that is contributing to water quality problems and reduce carbon emissions that are warming the planet during a swing through Sarasota Tuesday [Feb. 4th].

Gov. Ron DeSantis created the position of chief science officer shortly after being sworn in, and University of Florida professor Thomas Frazer is the first person to hold the job.

Frazer, who has a PhD in biological sciences, primarily has been tasked with addressing water quality issues, which he described during a speech to The Argus Foundation Tuesday as “probably the most pressing problem in our state.”

But Frazer also made it clear that climate change is a big problem that needs to be addressed, and reducing carbon emissions is critical. That’s a message that has not been heard out of the executive branch in Florida in nearly a decade.