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Water-Related News

FDEP invites public input on new water quality credit program

Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is inviting the public to a rulemaking workshop Thursday [March 21st] to share feedback on a proposed water quality credit trading program.

The program would allow government entities to buy “enhancement credits” to compensate for negative impacts to water quality from development projects. An “enhancement credit” represents a quantity of pollutant removed as a standard unit of measurement, per Florida Statute.

Florida’s existing mitigation banking program relies on similar credits intended to offset negative wetland impacts from development. But Gabrielle Milch of St. Johns Riverkeeper has concerns about both programs, saying they're designed to prioritize speedy development approvals when environmental health should come first and foremost.

“It's easier to keep pollution out of the water than it is to take it out of the water,” Milch said, also adding “it's a lot cheaper.”

Milch previously worked for the St. Johns River Water Management District, where she says her role included helping oversee and enforce development permitting regulations.

Back then, in the 1980s, Milch says development permitting in Florida wasn’t perfect. But she thinks it’s worse today: “more generalized and more streamlined,” allowing for rapid, potentially unvetted development.”

FDEP’s move to establish the new program follows state lawmakers’ unanimous approval of HB 965 in 2022, authorizing the creation of water quality enhancement areas (WQEAs), for which credits may be used to compensate for a lack of water quality treatment available onsite.