District has a process for Formal Wetland Determinations
Florida land owners, and people with an equitable interest in land, can request a “Formal Wetlands Determination” (FWD), which certifies the boundaries of wetlands and surface waters within that land (§373.421(2), Florida Statutes). The St. Johns River Water Management District has a process to handle these requests, also known as petitions, under the agency’s Environmental Resource Permitting Program.
An FWD identifies where wetlands/surface waters are located on land. While it does not authorize any construction or activity on land, an FWD can help landowners with planning how to develop or use their land. Environmental Resource Permit (ERP) applications, in contrast, result in an ERP permit that can authorize construction and operation of a stormwater management system and dredging or filling of wetlands.
While a formal wetlands determination can precede a landowner applying for an ERP, an FWD petition is not a construction permit. A petition for an FWD and an ERP application are two separate processes.
The process for conducting an FWD is outlined below:
- The District confirms that the petitioner is the legal land owner or has an equitable interest in the land.
- District biologists, environmental scientists and other environmental regulatory subject matter experts visit the land to conduct investigations to verify the boundaries of the wetlands and surface waters (streams, lakes, ponds, canals, ditches).
- Staff apply the methodology and criteria specified in Chapter 62-340, Florida Administrative Code, using information such as aerial photographs, hydrologic indicators and characteristics such as soil and vegetation types.
- Staff verify boundary flags already in place or establish new flags to delineate the wetland boundaries as necessar
- The petitioner submits a certified survey showing the verified boundary flags.
- The district issues a letter certifying the survey and findin This letter is usually issued by district staff, unless staff recommend a denial of a petition.
An FWD is a binding document that runs with the land and is generally valid for five years (unless physical conditions on the land change). Land owners may seek to have an FWD certification renewed prior to the expiration date of the FWD, which will be reissued if all FWD criteria are met.
Website, staff offer assistance with dock permits
Living in Florida, we have access to many scenic waterways that provide boating opportunities. Thus, it isn’t surprising that homeowners often decide to build a new dock or modify an existing dock on their property.
The St. Johns River Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) both regulate the construction and modification of single-family, multi-family and commercial docks. Typically, a homeowner should apply for a permit from the agency that permitted the upland property. It is important to determine the correct permitting agency because that agency may have a conservation easement over the shoreline of the property. That conservation easement may prohibit docks or may require docks to meet certain construction criteria.
While assistance is just a phone call away, the district’s website (www.sjrwmd.com) can also help with determining if there is a district permit on the upland property. Under the “Permitting” tab on the main page is a “Regulatory Permit Search” button. By clicking on the “Search” tab, one can locate a property using the district’s geographic information system search tools.
If the property is within the scope of a permit issued by the district, a district staff member can assist with easement questions and any other issues before a permit application is submitted. For additional information and assistance, district staff members are listed by their service center location on the district’s permitting contact webpage (www.sjrwmd.com/contact/#permitting-contact).
Understand the law regarding gopher tortoises when proposing development
When planning for site development, in addition to addressing wetlands onsite, uplands within a site may contain gopher tortoises. Because gopher tortoises are a state-listed threatened species and protected under Florida law, you may need to take additional steps on property proposed for development.
Gopher tortoises dig burrows up to 50 feet long. In addition to the tortoise, more than 350 other species of insects, mammals, reptiles and amphibians can live within the tortoise burrows. Because of this, they are known as a keystone species. Gopher tortoises live in well-drained sandy areas, usually with a sparse canopy and abundant, low-growing vegetation on which they forage. They can also be found in highly disturbed sites with a thick canopy and at lower elevations if their primary habitat is no longer available.
Because they are a threatened species, tortoises and their burrows are protected and must be avoided or relocated if present on a proposed development site. Relocation of gopher tortoises requires a permit and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is the lead agency that regulates the permitting and relocation of gopher tortoises. Individuals conducing assessments or relocating gopher tortoises from proposed development sites require an Authorized Gopher Tortoise Agent permit from FWC. FWC maintains a list of all currently certified agents on its website. It is advisable to consult with an agent if your site has uplands with sandy soils to determine if gopher tortoises are present prior to site development.
For detailed information, visit the FWC website at http://myfwc.com/license/wildlife/gopher-tortoise-permits/.
Expediting the permitting process for replacement wells
Wells fail, and when they do, drilling a replacement well may become an urgent situation. A pre-application discussion with district regulatory staff will help expedite the consumptive use permit (CUP) permitting process for the well replacement. A pre-application meeting provides an opportunity to let regulatory staff know that an expedited request is being submitted and to discuss the information needed to obtain the permit modification for the replacement well. The pre-application meeting and letter requesting a permit modification may be completed by the well owner or their agent (consultant, water well contractor, etc.), as long as an authorized agent letter is provided along with the letter modification request. If you need assistance, agricultural entities should contact Ag Assistance Team member David McInnes at 386-227-0126 and all other CUP well types should call your nearest service center and ask to speak with a CUP hydrologist.
What is the Mitigation Bank Search Tool?
If you’d like to learn more about mitigation banks permitted by the St. Johns River Water Management District, the district’s website contains a Mitigation Bank Search Tool that allows you to view information about mitigation banks. The webpage includes a mapping interface with various data layers, a frequently asked questions page, a link to the file which contains the permit, technical staff report, final approved plans, a detailed credit ledger, the type and availability of credit, the mitigation bank service area, the basin the mitigation bank is located in, contact information for each mitigation bank and much more.
For any questions or suggestions about the Mitigation Bank Search Tool or the Mitigation Banking Program, please contact Reid Hilliard, Technical Program Coordinator, at the district’s Maitland Service Center, 601 South Lake Destiny Road, Suite 200, Maitland, FL 32751; 407-659-4873 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the Annual Statement of Continuing Use Form?
Consumptive use permittees are required to maintain records of water quantity usage on a monthly basis for the life of the permit and provide those records to the district when requested. However, a consumptive use permit (CUP) holder whose total combined allocation is equal to or less than 100,000 gallons per day, on average, has a simplified way to confirm that they still use water in accordance with their permit. This is done by submitting the Annual Statement of Continuing Use form in lieu of submitting the EN-50 Water Use/Pumpage Report form.
The form includes the following questions:
- Do you still own, lease or control the property on which the permitted withdrawal point(s) is located?
- Did you use water for the purposes identified in the authorization statement (of the permit) during the past calendar year?
The Annual Statement of Continuing Use form is due by Jan. 31 each year and is located at the following link: www.sjrwmd.com/permitting/formsCUP/Form_40C-2-900-6.pdf
For assistance in submitting your Annual Statement of Continuing Use form via the e-Permitting portal, call 386-329-4570 or send an email to email@example.com.