Thursday, December 17, 2020

FLORIDA WETLANDS IMPERILED BY REMOVAL OF FEDERAL OVERSIGHT


For Immediate Release                          

December 17, 2020

Contact: Deborah Foote, 850.727.4039, deborah.foote@sierraclub.org  


 **PRESS RELEASE**

FLORIDA WETLANDS IMPERILED BY REMOVAL OF FEDERAL OVERSIGHT

TALLAHASSEE, FL-- Today the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it has granted the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) the authority to oversee dredge and fill permits. This authority will allow the state to formally take over the longstanding federal program that protects marshes, cypress forests, ponds and other wetlands under the Clean Water Act.  

The stated purpose of this change is to give the DEP the ability to fast-track the filling (destruction) of Florida’s wetlands. The Trump Administration has proven again that it serves developers’ interests over the water resources upon which Floridians depend. 

Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director said: "Today's decision by the Trump EPA will lead to the destruction of many of Florida's remaining wetlands and will harm the state's wildlife and fisheries dependent on those wetlands for survival.  Delegating the power to grant wetland dredge and fill permits to the State of Florida is a dream come true for the developers, miners, and road builders who spend lavishly to elect, influence, and control Florida politicians.  The developers will get more permits to build massive housing developments over wetlands, the rock miners will get more permits to extract limestone under Florida's natural landscape, and the road builders will get more permits to pave over the ponds, lakes, rivers, and swamps in Florida's paradise.  The big losers will be millions of Florida residents whose quality of life will be greatly diminished." 

Diana Umpierre, Everglades Restoration Campaign Organizing Representative, stated: “This is an act of hypocrisy by an administration that claimed to care about America's Everglades. The Sierra Club and the Everglades Coalition have made it clear why allowing Florida to permit wetland dredge and fill applications is diametrically opposed to the restoration of the Greater Everglades—an ecosystem largely composed of wetlands. It will be the proverbial fox guarding the hen house. The Army Corps’ involvement has provided the only meaningful public participation and federal reviews for Florida’s massive and costly Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects; Florida does not have a state law that parallels what is required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  With this change the state is poised to fast-track permits requested by powerful interests that love ribbon cutting ceremonies and claiming victories, even for projects that fall woefully short of adequately cleaning our waters, restoring wetlands, or protecting wildlife.”

“It was madness to speed through the public comment and hearing processes in the midst of a pandemic -- when Floridians have been focused on protecting their families and their jobs -- but there was method to the madness. This is one more instance of the DeSantis Administration claiming it is “green” but acting in the interest of developers to the peril of the state’s most valuable resources,” stated Cris Costello, Sierra Club Senior Organizing Manager.

“The Florida Department of Environmental Protection doesn’t have the capacity to take over the wetlands permitting that has been run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for decades. It can’t even manage to enforce the environmental laws already under its purview,” said Deborah Foote, Deputy Chapter Director for Sierra Club Florida. “To believe it can take this over with no additional financial resources is a pipe dream.” 

BACKGROUND:

Environmental organizations across the state, including the Everglades Coalition and the Florida Conservation Coalition, have been ardently opposed to the granting of 404 permitting authority -- find here examples of our collectively submitted comments:

https://05f26a35-5b6b-410a-9bb4-2a2484fa59fc.filesusr.com/ugd/599879_4dc6bf6c4d914191bb776892e7007a31.pdf

https://05f26a35-5b6b-410a-9bb4-2a2484fa59fc.filesusr.com/ugd/599879_4074a71ce6c748ff8fd529d28bada00e.pdf

https://05f26a35-5b6b-410a-9bb4-2a2484fa59fc.filesusr.com/ugd/599879_1752fad35df74c18a139fb2b5f03aae0.pdf  

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XH0NNqkkRo-TArr5PMRF0jnT8bzdMX9D/view?usp=sharing 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hZq1vmLwwqwnpSd0wXnUDybbaKMYjJ-a/view?usp=sharing 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1S09o4uTaIF97kyLIEF90SaIvRz1KRSMS/view?usp=sharing 

####