(FDACS) — On the final day of virtual public hearings on the state of Florida’s request to assume the administration of the Clean Water Act’s Section 404 program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Commissioner Nikki Fried, an independently-elected member of the Florida Cabinet, offered the following:
“Just before an election, the DeSantis administration is furthering their relentless drive to consolidate power, seizing authority from the federal government and strengthening his grip on Florida’s wetlands. When it comes to the conservation of our water resources, we need consistency, transparency, and public participation — this administration has demonstrated a disregard for these values in their oversight of the unemployment system, dealings with cabinet meetings, and disclosing of COVID-19 data. Water is our state’s lifeblood, a public good which all Floridians rely on, and we have a responsibility to ensure that the proper checks and balances are in place so it can be protected and conserved for generations to come.”
Context: On August 20, the EPA received a request from Florida to take over the administration of the Clean Water Act’s (CWA) Section 404 program to regulate the discharge of dredged or fill material into waters within the jurisdiction of the state. In the 43 years since the CWA was amended to provide for state assumption, only two states have assumed administration of the Section 404 program, Michigan and New Jersey.
Florida is the first state to submit a complete package requesting to administer the program since 1994. As part of the review process, the EPA asked for input from other applicable agencies, reviewing Florida’s proposed program for consistency with the CWA, and seeking public comments to be submitted on or before November 2, 2020 and held two virtual public hearings on October 21 and 27.
Background: Section 404 of the CWA requires a permit before dredged or fill material may be discharged into waters of the United States, and provides states and tribes the option of assuming, or taking over, the permitting responsibility and administration of the Section 404 permit program for certain waters. Section 404 permits for those assumed waters would be issued by the state or tribe instead of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.