Commissioner Nikki Fried submitted written testimony on the State of Florida’s request to assume administration of the Clean Water Act’s Section 404 program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In her comments, Commissioner Fried noted her concerns with the Florida Department of Environmental Protections’ (DEP) proposal, highlighting the fact that the only other two states which have assumed permitting authority struggled to adequately implement the program.
“Given the value of the water resources and wetlands to the citizens of our state, any delegation of permitting authority to DEP must contain assurances that existing levels of protection of the natural resources will be preserved and that sufficient resources are available for DEP to implement regulatory programs in an efficient and effective manner,” Commissioner Fried stated in the written testimony.
“Without those assurances, DEP will face the same fate as Michigan and New Jersey, the other two states that have assumed 404 permitting authority and required remediation of their state programs due to struggles in maintaining the required levels of regulatory integrity and resources to adequately implement the program.”
The complete written testimony, which was submitted online, can be read below.
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. Last week, Commissioner Fried shared her concerns with this proposal.
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.