SFWMD Will Post Permit Applications, Hold Web Meetings
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), in response to requirements in Senate Bill 2080, has increased public access to its permitting process.
The state law delegated authority for permit approvals to executive directors at the state’s five water management districts and reauthorized those districts as part of the state’s sunset review process.
SFWMD Executive Director Carol Ann Wehle said: "We remain committed to increasing government transparency, encouraging public participation, and upholding our commitment to protect South Florida's water resources."
Water management districts in Florida protect regional water supplies with environmental resource permits that regulate activities that could affect wetlands, alter surface water flows, or contribute to water pollution. The districts also use consumptive use permits to regulate ground and surface water withdrawals by major users such as water utilities, agriculture and nurseries, golf courses, mining, and other industrial users.
Currently, nearly 90 percent of permits are issued at the staff level, with 10 percent going to the Governing Board for final action. Under the new legislation, applications for all permits will go to the agency's executive director. If staff recommends permit denial, the application must go to the Governing Board for further review.
SFWMD is employing several new procedures, including:
- Providing opportunities for stakeholders to meet with the executive director or other appropriate staff members, prior to permit action, at regularly scheduled monthly meetings that will be Webcast on the district’s Web site. The first meeting of this type is scheduled for Aug. 18 at the district's headquarters in West Palm Beach.
- Posting weekly a list of new applications received on the Web site and ePermitting portal as well as a list of applications deemed.
- Posting a list of individual permits issued the previous month on the Web site and ePermitting portal.
- Maintaining a standing agenda item on the Governing Board’s monthly agenda for the public to provide input on regulatory policy issues.
The public will have additional opportunities during the review process to comment on those projects determined to be of heightened public interest or where there is the likelihood of a request for an administrative hearing. Examples may include 20-year permits for public utilities, applications within or adjacent to a Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) project, or permits that have generated significant public interest.
Since 2005, ePermitting has been enhanced to allow customers to submit environmental resource and consumptive use permit applications as well as information about permit compliance, access to fee schedules, and automatic calculation of permitting fees. The tool also allows customers to apply for, track, and manage permits online in real time, at anytime.
To date, nearly 200 people subscribe to the system’s notice feature, allowing users to retrieve details on newly received applications, permits, regulatory consent agendas, and rulemaking. ePermitting account holders can also subscribe to receive notice details in a weekly report that can be customized by each user, including information by notice type, location or permit type.
For more information, visit www.sfwmd.gov/ePermitting.