Webster Applauds EPA Historic Approval of Florida’s Request to Administer the Clean Water Act Section 404 Program
December 17, 2020
Webster Applauds EPA Historic Approval of Florida’s Request to Administer the Clean Water Act Section 404 Program
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Daniel Webster, R-Clermont, joined U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Florida Congressional Colleagues, FL DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein and others as EPA announced that Florida would assume administration of the Clean Water Act 404 program.
“Today is a great day for Florida and everyone who cares about protecting our wetlands and clean water and streamlining government regulations. The Sunshine State has a strong track record of protecting our unique environment and Floridians care deeply about their environment and natural resources. Everglades restoration, key infrastructure projects, sustaining protections on wetlands and endangered species, and taxpayer dollars – are all beneficiaries of today’s announcement. I thank Administrator Wheeler and look forward to continuing to work with him, Secretary Bernhardt and Secretary Valenstein to protect and support Florida’s water, Floridians and our economy,” said Congressman Dan Webster (FL-11).
Last month, Rep. Webster led a Congressional letter in support of Florida’s request to administer the Clean Water Section 404 program. Approximately 85% of current state and federal review requirements are duplicative. These duplicative requirements will be removed under Florida’s administration of the 404 program.
Additional quotes from state and federal leaders and stakeholders
“A considerable amount of effort has gone into Florida’s assumption of the Clean Water Act 404 program,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Federal authorities don’t delegate this type of permit often, but Florida has, beyond question one of the greatest environmental records of any state, and I couldn’t be happier that Florida has shown it can meet the strict national standards EPA sets to protect human health and the environment.”
“After a rigorous review, analysis and coordination process, EPA is pleased that the state of Florida will assume responsibility of its Clean Water Act Section 404 program,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker. “This approval is truly a reflection of the high-level scientific and regulatory expertise of the environmental professionals at the state, federal and tribal levels who ensured a legally and technically sound program. This monumental milestone will allow Florida to administer this program to best fit enhanced protection of its natural resources.”
“Florida continues to be a pioneer of environmental protection. This is a historic moment for our agency and our state,” said FDEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “We appreciate EPA’s stringent, public review and approval of DEP’s assumption of this program. Our waters and wetlands are critical to our economy and way of life in Florida. As such, it is important for the state to be in charge and take the lead in their protection. We are pleased that with the assumption, Florida scientists and permitters will now be accountable for state and federal wetlands permits. DEP staff know the state’s resources best and have the expertise to ensure their protection.”
“Today’s action is a great milestone for cooperative federalism,” said Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt. “I commend Administrator Wheeler who led this effort, and all who worked so hard to get to this point.”
“This designation is great news for the State of Florida – it gives our state the ability to make the best decisions for our unique environment, with input from the public and environmental stakeholders. The duplicative rules on the state and federal levels were a waste of taxpayer dollars, and created confusion for everyone involved, which is why I fought to streamline this process. I will keep working to cut unnecessary government red tape and improve efficiency on every level of government, while also making sure our environment is protected for generations to come,” said U.S. Senator Rick Scott.
“Today’s announcement is a tremendous accomplishment for Florida, especially as we continue our Everglades restoration efforts,” said U.S. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25). “Allowing the state to take over the 404 permitting process will significantly streamline restoration projects, while still protecting the greater environment. I thank Administrator Wheeler and Regional Administrator Walker, as well as all the other key players who worked diligently to make this happen. I have no doubt that we will see the benefits of this decision for years to come.”
“As Floridians, we understand the important role the environment plays in our economy and our way of life,” said Congressman John Rutherford (FL-04). “Today’s announcement by Secretary Bernhardt and Administrator Wheeler is a big win for Florida, allowing our state to streamline permitting for water projects while continuing to uphold the highest level of environmental standards. This is just another example of President Trump and Governor DeSantis’s dedication to protecting Florida waters while reducing bureaucracy and making government run more efficiently.”
“This Administration has done more for clean water in Florida than any other in modern history. Water quality has improved in the Everglades, across Florida’s National Estuary Program network, and Harmful Algal Blooms are being targeted in Florida’s springs and salt water ecosystems. Florida will do a better job at efficiently and effectively issuing permits for necessary infrastructure than the federal government has. State assumption of the permitting program will reduce project costs and save taxpayer dollars. As a next step, I’m looking forward to working with EPA on modernizing the Clean Water State Revolving Fund allocation which disadvantages states like Florida that have growing water infrastructure needs,” said U.S. Congressman Mike Waltz (FL-06).
“I thank Administrator Wheeler for his diligence on this historic accomplishment for Florida’s infrastructure and water quality priorities. Without these unnecessary and duplicative permitting processes, projects of all sizes will be streamlined to maximize efficiency and our state will be given the flexibility to make our own decisions that are best suited for our environmental and economic interests,” said U.S. Congressman Greg Steube (FL-17).
“President Trump has made it a priority of his Administration to pursue balanced water policies that protect our environment and meet the needs of the American people,” said CEQ Chairman Mary Neumayr. “Today’s historic announcement is a testament to what can be accomplished through efficient coordination across all levels of government, and I applaud EPA, the State of Florida, the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on this achievement.”
“The Army is pleased to support the State of Florida in its effort to balance environmental protection with economic development,” said Ryan Fisher, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. “The citizens of Florida will have continued protections under the Clean Water Act with the benefit of infrastructure permitting decisions being made at the state level.”
“Our staff possesses the technical expertise necessary to run the 404 program effectively, offering increased consistency and efficiency to our stakeholders, and increased protections for Florida’s environment,” said Deputy Secretary of Regulatory Programs John Truitt. “None of these efforts were undertaken in a vacuum – we have weighed public and internal feedback and have worked closely with the EPA and our stakeholders to get us to this point. It has been a team effort from the start.”
Temperince Morgan, executive director of the The Nature Conservancy in Florida, said, “The expeditious restoration of our natural systems is a top priority for the state and The Nature Conservancy. The state’s assumption of the federal dredge and fill permitting program under section 404 of the Federal Clean Water Act is a positive development that we hope will result in more timely decisions by staff with specific expertise in evaluating Florida’s unique wetland systems. Considering most environmental restoration projects require a 404 permit, adoption of the permitting program should provide much needed benefits to Florida’s natural systems and its residents.”
"This is great news for our state. Florida engineers work closely with the scientists at DEP, and we believe they possess the technical expertise and local knowledge of Florida's water resources and needs. In addition to the benefits of this expertise, a comprehensive state-run program will provide regulatory efficiencies and reduce delays for critical restoration and infrastructure projects while providing stringent protection of Florida’s natural resources," said Steven Folsom, PE, chair, Conservation and Environmental Quality Committee, Florida Engineering Society.
"The state of Florida’s assumption of Section 404 permitting should enable Everglades restoration to proceed with the sense of urgency it deserves while maintaining the high level of review and protection required by the Clean Water Act," said Eric Eikenberg, CEO, Everglades Foundation. "We expect the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to exercise its new authority in a manner that protects Florida’s precious and diminishing wetland resources. Wetlands safeguard Florida communities from the effects of climate change, provide tremendous water quality benefits, support fish and wildlife habitat, and mitigate against flooding."
Jeff Beal, regional biologist with Ducks Unlimited in Florida said, “The restoration of our freshwater and brackish wetlands and associated habitats is paramount to continuing Florida’s legacy of promoting good stewardship of these key habitats for the benefit of fish, wildlife and people. Ducks Unlimited works across the nation with state and federal partners to conserve and restore wetlands and is supportive of this effort in Florida because it could help expedite restoration projects by allowing us to work more closely with state agencies such as DEP that have demonstrated the ability to handle streamlined administration for specific purposes.”
“Florida’s environment, our waterways and our wetlands are what make the state unique. DEP and our partners have worked diligently to develop science-based solutions to key environmental issues, and it’s crucial that these solutions are implemented in a timely and efficient fashion,” said DEP Chief Science Officer Dr. Tom Frazer. “The State 404 program will ensure the prioritization of critical environmental infrastructure projects and guarantee that local environmental experts with a vested interest in and intimate knowledge of Florida’s natural resources are at the helm.”
Background from EPA
Section 404 of the CWA requires a permit before dredged or fill material may be discharged into waters of the United States. Section 404(g) of the CWA gives 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 Corps. The CWA provides that the Corps retains permitting authority in certain tidal waters and other specified waters that are currently used or may be used in the future to transport interstate or foreign commerce. State and tribal Section 404 programs must be at least as stringent as federal permitting.