Florida boasts 1,197 statute miles of coastline, 2,276 statute miles of tidal shoreline, and an expanse of marshland (i.e. the Everglades) that includes a slow-moving river that reaches 60 miles wide and 100 miles long in the wet season. As the Everglades are shaped by water (from flooding rains in the wet season) and fire (naturally from lightening in the dry season), the Florida ecosystem is easily changed by outside influence.
For years, the safety of the Florida Everglades (along with coast and shoreline) were drained in order to convert the ‘low quality’ land into a ‘more productive’ land that was suitable for growth and development. However, as researchers began to understand the importance of the Everglades, policies were put into place to protect the ecosystem.
Generally, any activity conducted in, on, or over the surface waters of the State of Florida will require a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and/or the State Water Management District. Such activities generally are also regulated by the counties and municipalities within the State.
Federal and state laws regarding land use on the coast and wetlands
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Corps of Engineers (COE) are active in Clean Water Act regulations for wetland development. The clean water act monitors and regulates fill or dredged material released into U.S. waters. The goal is to maintain the biological integrity of the nation’s bodies of water. Before any activity is done that will involve any of these conditions, a permit must be issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Florida has strict guidelines for what is an approved construction. Any builder must submit an application that demonstrates that their proposed construction will not do any of the following:
- Adversely affect public health, safety and welfare of the property of others
- Adversely affect fish and wildlife
- Not impair navigation or surface water flows
- Adversely affect nearby fishing or recreational uses
- Increase the potential for flooding or discharge of pollutants
- One-third of species who are threatened or endangered depend on wetlands for their habitat.
- Upland area runoff is filtered and cleansed of pollutants and sediments by wetlands.
- Wetlands minimize flood damage by improving the quality of flood waters.
- Shorelines are protected from erosion by wetlands.
- Forested wetlands sustain timber to meet the demand for forest products.
Reasons wetlands should be protected from development include:
If you are planning on doing any construction in or near the Florida wetlands, speaking with an land use attorney who is knowledgeable in all aspects of Florida wetland and coastal permitting can help you ensure that you are following all of the rules and regulations.