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Water-Related News

DEP wants to take over issuing federal wetland permits

For decades, Florida’s builders and developers have complained about how long it takes to get a federal permit to fill wetlands.

They greatly prefer dealing with the state because it doesn’t protect as many types of wetland, says yes to nearly every permit application and approves them rapidly.

Now Gov. Rick Scott’s environmental regulators are negotiating with the Trump Administration for the state to take over issuing federal wetlands permits too — all in the name of making it easier to build in wetlands.

A pair of bills to make it happen — SB 1402 and HB 7043 — are rolling through the Legislature, sped along by strong support from business groups and Scott’s state Department of Environmental Protection.

"If this goes through, the likelihood would be that several other states would then use this as a template," said Eric Hughes, a recently retired U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wetlands expert who spent 37 years reviewing Florida permits.

Florida environmental groups are split on the issue. The Nature Conservancy supports the bills. Audubon Florida, despite its acting executive director calling the Senate bill "appropriate," has taken no position. Meanwhile the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation and Earthjustice are opposed.