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The Florida Environmental Approach: Water Management
Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Water management is a critical issue that is beginning to affect most states. Florida has an environmental system that integrates various components into a system capable of meeting its water management problems. This article addresses Florida's methods for better system governance and may serve as a resource for outlining Florida’s approach to water management issues. Additionally, the article will examine how Florida’s system deals with environmental governance-fragmentation issues and suggests the application of Florida’s water management system to other states.


Florida’s natural resources make the state an attractive location for commercial, industrial, and residential development. The state’s natural resources range from pristine beaches to phosphorous. Water continues to be one of the state’s most valued resources.[1]Florida has more than 1,700 streams and rivers, 7,800 freshwater lakes, 700 springs, and 11 million acres of wetlands.[2]The recent trend in population growth has indicated that the consumptive water demand for these waters has drastically shifted from agricultural consumption to public consumption.[3]Still the diversity in water consumption ranges from recreational and personal use to industrial and agricultural applications. The state has experienced population growth of 17.6 percent from the year 2000 to 2010.[4]In order to accommodate the ever increasing demands, an environmental regulatory system must be in place for the efficient and structured use and conservation of the state’s resources. The state of Florida has a system that integrates the various state regulatory bodies to form an environmental regulatory system that achieves effective water management.

Section II of this article examines how the multiple agencies and sub-agencies work and the responsibilities to which they are charged. Section III examines how each agency works together and includes examples of interagency agreements and programs. Section IV addresses criticisms of the system and provides recommendations for applying Florida’s system to other areas.


Florida’s constitution mandates that the state provide conservation measures for the protection of natural resources and scenic beauty through the abatement of pollution.[5]The Legislature has also declared that “pollution of the air and waters” of the state is harmful, not only to the wildlife and other natural resources, but to recreational, industrial, and agricultural consumptive uses. [6]Florida, over time, has become increasingly aware of the need to streamline the environmental regulatory system. The components of Florida’s regulatory system have evolved to address these challenges by working together for the protection of Florida’s resources.

A.  The Department of Environmental Protection

The Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) is Florida’s main environmental agency. In 1967, the state legislature passed the Florida Air and Water Pollution Control Act which removed the Board of Health’s oversight for pollution and led to the creation of the Air and Water Pollution Control Commission.[7]The primary responsibility of the Water Pollution Control Commission was to manage programs aimed at reducing air and water pollution.[8]After several changes in names and in regulation, the Florida legislature passed the Florida Environmental Reorganization Act of 1975 (“FERA”).[9]FERA created the Department of Environmental Regulation (“DER”) as the responsible entity for implementing and managing Florida’s various environmental programs.[10]FERA also led to the creation of a commission under the DER known as the Environmental Regulatory Commission (“ERC”) that was, and still is, responsible for implementing standards that govern land, water, and air quality in Florida.[11]ERC members are representatives of development, agriculture, local governments, environmentalists, and scientific and technical experts. [12]

The current DEP was a result of the Florida Environmental Reorganization Act of 1993.[13]Along with the reorganization of the environmental regulatory system, the ERC was also reincorporated to further implement the environmental regulatory technical standards that the DEP relies upon. [14]However, ERC is not responsible for policies, plans, and priorities of the DEP. [15]A 1993 reorganization further established various divisions within the DEP that included, among other things, water resource management, environmental assessment and restoration, and waste management.[16]

The Legislature has declared that the DEP is the lead agency for implementing programs in adherence to the Clean Water Act as well as the lead agency for the administration of funds pursuant to the Coastal Zone Management Act.[17]In addition to the general and specific permitting authority of the department, the DEP is also responsible for creating water classifications within the state and ensuring that the standards are adhered to.[18]The DEP is required to cooperate with individual Water Management Districts (“WMDs”) in the development of a state water management plan. [19]With the DEP’s massive amount of responsibilities, the Legislature needed to give the DEP powers to achieve state and agency goals. Therefore, in order to help the DEP achieve its mandate, the DEP utilizes facilities and employees of other departments, may delegate duties, and is authorized to enter into interagency agreements. [20]As with other agencies, the rulemaking authority of the DEP is strictly limited to rules that implement or interpret the specific powers and duties granted by the agency’s enabling statute. [21]The consolidation of these responsibilities into the DEP has the purpose of streamlining the environmental agenda of the state.

i.  Water Management Districts

December 31, 1976 marked the establishment of the five WMDs in Florida.[22]The Legislature sought to have the DEP delegate powers to the districts to better meet the needs of the local conditions while maintaining the general direction of the state’s water management plan. The WMDs are mainly established along hydrological boundaries.[23]Each WMD, through the DEP’s delegated authority, is comprised of a governing board, and, with the exception of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, is comprised of nine members.[24]Each of the members is appointed by the governor with the approval of the senate for a term of 4 years.[25]The governor is required to select from candidates who have significant experience in areas ranging from agriculture and civil engineering to accounting and financial businesses. [26]WMDs are responsible for implementing and recommending water management plans that are substantiated by technical data, research, and law.[27]The purpose of a water management plan is to establish guidelines for managing the water resources of the WMD’s region that addresses supply, quality, and preservation of natural resources.[28]All of the state’s water management plans must be aligned with the DEP’s water plan that addresses, among other things, the development of water resources of the state and the water quality standards of the department.[29]This has the obvious intended effect of addressing the local geographical and hydrological elements while maintaining the core principles of the rest of the state. The plans submitted by the WMDs are updated every 5 years and are based on a 20 year planning period. [30]

ii.  Florida Water Resources Monitoring Council and Florida Oceans and Coastal Council 

The Florida Water Resources Monitoring Council (“FWRMC”) was created in 2006 to recommend to the DEP a way of improving water resource monitoring and coordination among the numerous interested agencies of the state.[31]FWRMC is currently comprised of members from all of the state’s WMDs, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (“FDACS”), the DEP, the Florida Department of Health (“FDH”), the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (“FWCC”), and the Florida Local Environmental Resource Agencies (“FLERA”).[32]One of the responsibilities of FWRMC is to develop water resource metadata standards for adoption by state agencies and for coordinating freshwater monitoring with coastal and marine networks. [33]Additionally, the DEP, FWCC, and FDACS appoint fifteen voting members to the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council (“FOCC”).[34]FOCC is charged with developing statewide research strategies along with coordinating public and private research.[35]The Legislature created the FOCC to assist the state in developing management strategies for preserving ocean and coastal resources. [36]The FOCC develops a research plan based on various economic, environmental, and social considerations and submits the plan to the Legislature for funding approval.[37]The plan pertains to the waters from the mean high-water line to the state’s jurisdictional boundary including the federal waters in which it has an interest.[38]The FOCC is made up of members such as the Secretary of the DEP, the Executive Director of the FWCC, and the Commissioner of the FDACS that serve as non-voting members.[39]Each department then appoints five members that are scientists specializing in an area that the department regulates.[40]

B.  Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

The FDACS is Florida’s main agricultural regulatory and enforcement agency.[41]Along with the state’s interest in environmental resource conservation and development, the state has determined that “agricultural production is a major contributor to the economy of the state” and that the “agricultural lands constitute unique and irreplaceable resources of statewide importance.”[42]Consistent with the Legislature’s determination that agriculture is of great importance, the FDACS is charged with extending “in every practicable way” the distribution of Florida’s agricultural products throughout the world.[43]With this drive and determination, billions of dollars in state revenue can be attributed to Florida’s agricultural industry.[44]Additionally, the FDACS is responsible for pesticide applicator licenses, fertilizer registration and licensing, and monitoring and enforcement of agricultural laws.[45]As with other agencies, the rulemaking by the FDACS is limited to the Legislature’s conferring of authority.[46]

The Legislature has determined that fertilizer practices may cause water quality to deteriorate.[47]Chapter 62-302.530 Florida Administrative Code states that “in no case shall nutrient concentrations of a body of water be altered so as to cause an imbalance in natural populations of flora or fauna.”[48]Chapter 62-302.530 also states that for the protection of state waters "the discharge of nutrients shall continue to be limited as needed to prevent violations of other standards contained in this chapter.[49]Therefore, the Legislature has given the FDACS the responsibility of licensing the sale of fertilizers and inspecting fertilizers to ensure compliance with formulations and labeling. [50]Rather than put a cap on the outright use of fertilizers, the state has left most of the legislation surrounding fertilizer use to the local governments (see infra). The water conservation program under the FDACS is also used as a tool to increase the efficient development and conservation of water resources for agricultural usage.[51]

i.  The Soil and Water Conservation Districts (“SWCDs”) and the Soil and Water Conservation Council (“SWCC”)

The supervisors that comprise a SWCD have the ability to formulate regulations in the interest of developing soil and water conservation programs and restrictions.[52]After notice has been given to the residents of the district, a referendum is administered. [53]Relief from the restrictions approved by the SWCD can be obtained through appeal to the SWCD.[54]This relief is obtained upon a SWCD’s determination that the specific petitioner would endure excessive hardship because of the rule.  In addition to addressing local soil conservation issues through implementing regulations, SWCDs conduct surveys and research relating to soil and water conservation.[55]SWCDs are also able to assist in obtaining equipment and physical material that assist in soil and water conservation. [56]Should the SWCC make a determination that the SWCD is no longer an administratively feasible district, the commissioner of the FDACS may dissolve the district.[57]

The SWCC is composed of 23 members that comprise an advisory committee.[58]Eleven of the members are experienced in the agricultural industry or have helped in implementing Best Management Practices related to soil and water conservation. [59]The remaining twelve members are representatives from each of the WMDs, a representative from the DEP, and various representatives from local governing bodies. [60]Under the FDACS, advisory committees are appointed to submit proposed legislation and rules to the commissioner.[61]The proposed legislation by committees is based on the considerations either brought to its attention by the FDACS or through concerns emanating from the field.[62]While the FDACS has delegated these responsibilities to advisory committees in general, specific duties arise for the various committees under FDACS. Here, the SWCC has the job of coordinating programs for each of the SWCDs.[63]Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the SWCC has the job of keeping each SWCD abreast of developments and findings that other SWCDs have experienced with their respective programs. [64]

C.  Division of Community Development(“DCD”)and the Administration Commission

In an effort to consolidate and implement greater development of Florida’s economy, Governor Rick Scott consolidated the land planning and development organizations of the state into the Department of Economic Opportunity. [65]Because of this reorganization, the former Department of Community Affairs, Florida’s main state land planning agency, is now called the Division of Community Development. [66]The state government is responsible for adopting a state comprehensive plan that provides for development policy.[67]Part of the state comprehensive plan is the growth management section.[68]The Governor, along with the Legislature and various agencies, is required to take into consideration, among other things, the state’s natural resources as it relates to growth management, which is defined as the physical growth of the state.[69]The growth management plan is given legal effect only upon the Legislature’s adoption.[70]The regional planning councils then take on the task of implementing the portions of the state comprehensive plan that reflects regional growth conditions.[71]The majority of the positions on the regional planning councils are elected officials from various local governments that make up the councils.[72]This has the intended effect of facilitating coordination among the smaller local governments and their own local comprehensive plans. After regional planning councils adopt the plans, the local government then establishes a local planning agency that implements its own local comprehensive plan.[73]Each stage needs to be signed off by reviewing agencies.[74]

i.  Developments of Regional Impact[75]

The DCD recommends guidelines and standards for development to the Administration Council, which is comprised of the governor and the governor’s cabinet.[76]Developments of Regional Impact are development projects that affect more than one county and have a substantial effect on the health, safety, or welfare of citizens that includes effects on the environment.[77]The guidelines on the review process include environmental and natural resource thresholds as well as subsidiary employment creation.[78]If a development complies within the purview of an expedited permitting program that the DEP administers, then the development project is presumed to be in compliance with the thresholds established under the Development of Regional Impact.[79]If the local government issues a development order, an affected party or agency is able to appeal to the Florida Land and Water Adjudicatory Commission, which is made up of the Administration Commission. [80]After receiving the appeal, the Administration Commission decides whether the development is in compliance with the standards and guidelines set forth.[81]

ii.  Areas of Critical State Concern

An Area of Critical State Concern is an area containing, or that has an impact on, environmental or natural resources of statewide importance. [82]These designated areas include state and federal parks, forests, wildlife refuges, major rivers and estuaries, endangered lands, or aquifer recharge areas where development, if left to its own devices, would cause substantial harm.[83]The DCD submits a proposal to the Administration Council for acceptance in designating an area as one of critical state concern or recommends rules for the area.[84]The Administration Council also appoints a resource planning and management committee that reviews an area of potential critical state concern for voluntary resource planning in the area.[85]Any rule that is proposed is sent to the Legislature, which is able to make amendments, adopt, or reject the proposal. [86]The regional and local planning agencies must adopt development schemes in compliance with the rules in the area of critical state concern. [87]As with the Developments of Regional Impact, the affected party or agency is able to appeal to the Florida Land and Water Adjudicatory Commission.[88]After a rule or statute designates an Area of Critical State Concern, the DEP, the WMD within the jurisdiction, and other agencies named in the rule, submits a report to the Administration Commission and the DCD that evaluates the effect of the designation. [89]In the report are recommended rules and criteria for the designated area as well as the reasoning for the recommendation. [90]

iii.     Florida Quality Developments

The Florida Quality Development program allows for development projects to get an expedited review by the DEP of the development plan as well as be labeled as a Florida Quality Development for advertisement purposes. [91]The DCD, rather than the local governments, issues an order that designates a development project as a Florida Quality Development. [92]Some of the factors the developer must consider are environmental impacts such as affected wildlife and archeological preservation. [93]If the development project does not get the certification as a Florida Quality Development then the developer may appeal to a board that is composed of members from the FWCC, WMDs, DEP, and the Department of Transportation. [94]

D.  The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The governor appoints 7 members to the FWCC.[95]  The FWCC is responsible for the numerous recreational, commercial, and conservation programs in the state. These programs are administered by divisions consisting of hunting and fishing, marine and freshwater fisheries management, habitat and wildlife conservation, and research. [96]Currently, the FWCC manages more than 575 species of wildlife, 200 native species of freshwater fish, and 500 native species of saltwater fish.[97]The FWCC is given authority to enact regulations to manage the state’s fish and wildlife resources.[98]With these duties, the FWCC has a strong interest in communicating with other environmental agencies about water management programs and regulations that would have an effect on the fish and wildlife resources of the state, which is most of them.[99]

Within the FWCC are various trust funds for conservation programs. One example of such a trust fund is the Marine Resources Conservation Trust Fund.[100]The FWCC administers the funds collected from the various marine-related activities that it regulates. [101]The funds are appropriated towards programs such as marine fishery research and enforcement. [102]An additional conservation program includes the Fish and Wildlife Habitat Program. [103]The Fish and Wildlife Habitat Program acquires lands deemed by the FWCC or other agencies as being important for the conservation of fish and wildlife. [104]The fish and wildlife research is done in coordination between the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (“FWRI”), a branch of the FWCC, and the DEP.[105]The Legislature requires a memorandum of agreement between the DEP and the FWRI that details the responsibilities of the FWRI.[106]The responsibilities, at minimum, are environmental monitoring and assessment, restoration research and development of restoration technology, and responses to species die-offs and natural disasters.[107]

E.  Local governments

 The state is home to almost 19 million people. [108]Each of Florida’s 67 counties vary with respect to geography, natural resources, population, revenue sources, and weather patterns.[109]To better assist the state in addressing the various environmental conditions found throughout the state, local governments are able to manage pollution control programs provided they do not conflict with the DEP’s regulations.[110]The programs established must be approved by the DEP before they can be implemented and may be more strict than the regulations set forth by the DEP. [111]Additionally, while permitting for practices that affect the environment is normally the DEP’s responsibility, the DEP is able to delegate its permitting authority.[112]Should the DEP find a local program or ordinance inadequate or in noncompliance with the statutory language or with the environmental regulations of the state, the DEP is able to preempt the regulatory authority of the local government to enforce state environmental regulations.[113]One example of the DEP’s delegation of authority falls under the Clean Water Act’s provision that requires ordinances addressing landscaping and irrigation practices to reduce pollutants discharged from stormwater.[114]Local governments must also consider “Florida-Friendly Landscape Standards” before implementing ordinances that address landscape maintenance.[115]

While direct environmental regulation is key to addressing the concerns within the local government, the Legislature requires that local governments prepare a local comprehensive plan that meets the standards enumerated in the state comprehensive plan.[116]With the requirement that the local governments be in harmony with the statewide environmental and growth management plans, local governments are able to go further in managing environmental issues than the state. Sarasota and Pinellas counties are two examples of the extent that local governments are willing to go to protect the waters in and surrounding the county.

In 2007, Sarasota County addressed the issues of fertilizer leaching and runoff into the surrounding inland and coastal waters. [117]The Sarasota County Fertilizer and Management Code declares that the quality of the waters surrounding Sarasota is “critical to environmental, economic, and recreational prosperity and to the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of the county.”[118]The Sarasota County Fertilizer Management Code addresses, among other things, that the overgrowth of vegetation in stormwater and drainage conveyances hinders flood control, and the overgrowth of vegetation due to the leaching and runoff from fertilizers causes environmental problems in local waters.[119]Additionally, the code cites the DEP’s assessment that the local inland and coastal waters are “impaired” due to the excess amount of nutrients.[120]Because of these recognitions, Sarasota County adopted the code to restrict any applicator from applying nitrogen and phosphorous to turf and landscape plants between June 1st and September 30th. [121]These dates are meant to correspond with the months that Sarasota County receives the greatest amount of rainfall.[122]Unsurprisingly, farms and golf courses are exempt from the ordinance. [123]  The success of Sarasota’s fertilizer application restriction (“blackout period”), as well as similar provisions in other local ordinances, has been debated.[124]However, the ordinance is just the tip of the iceberg as far as fertilizer restrictions go.

 Pinellas County has one of the more extensive prohibitions on fertilizer applications. Pinellas County recognizes many of the same problems associated with fertilizers as Sarasota County and also declares the waters around the county as critical to the environmental, recreational, cultural, and economic well being of the residents. [125]The ordinance still has similar “blackout periods” as the Sarasota County ordinance, but goes beyond by the banning of fertilizer applications in certain weather. [126]No nitrogen or phosphorous containing fertilizer can be applied during particular weather advisories.[127]These advisories by the National Weather Service include: a severe thunderstorm warning or watch, a flood warning or watch, a tropical storm warning or watch, a hurricane warning or watch, or if rain is expected to be greater than or equal to 2 inches within 24 hours.[128]This provision extends beyond the expected rainy months to manage fertilizer leaching and runoff for the rest of the year. To negotiate around the distinct possibility that applicators would apply anyway, Pinellas County also prohibited the sale of fertilizers during the “blackout period.”[129]Beginning on the first day of the “blackout period” no commercial establishment is able to sell, in retail, any landscape fertilizer that contains nitrogen or phosphorous. [130]This period runs the same length of time as the Sarasota County “blackout period” from June 1 through September 30. [131]Like the Sarasota County ordinance, golf courses and farm operations are exempt from the “blackout periods,” though golf courses are required to follow practices as outlined in the DEP’s Best Management Practices (“BMP”) manual for golf courses.[132]Additionally, BMPs are required for fertilizer applicators and landscapers.[133]Finally, the ordinance requires granular fertilizers containing nitrogen to contain “no less than 50% slow release nitrogen per guaranteed analysis label.”[134]

The local governments have taken tremendous and controversial steps towards addressing the water problems of the state. The incorporation of the state’s overall plan to fit the needs of the local government is a valuable aspect of Florida’s environmental approach. The aggregated local environmental regulations have the potential to transcend state regulations on positive impacts on the environment.


Many regulatory systems share the common problem of fragmented institutions. The failure to factor in elements from different fields can cause problems with a system. Regulations that lack an integrated foundation and only focus on one problem are destined to be ineffective. A proper system of environmental regulation must consider sustainability and conservation, economic, agricultural, and cultural issues to ensure effective management. The various components of the environmental regulatory system in Florida are required to consider the interests of affected parties as well as the respective state regulatory bodies before implementing environmental programs and rules. Additionally, with many of the regulations, the components not only consider interagency interests, but are required to have another agency include its interests or considerations into a regulatory or scientific determination. In this way, Florida’s system takes a progressive approach in tackling the many environmental issues in the state. Further, Florida has declared agricultural and natural resources as critical to the state.[135]The state comprehensive plan is supposed to recognize this determination in its direction to all levels of government.[136]A system that fails to bring the agricultural, environmental, and developmental agencies together would be full of inconsistencies. This section examines a few mechanisms that integrate the interests, approaches, and opinions of various state agencies.

A.  Total Maximum Daily Load (“TMDL”) and Minimum Flows/ Levels

The legislature has determined that in furthering public policy towards the state waters, a total maximum daily load program will help achieve improvements in water quality.[137]The state revises or adopts a water quality standard that consists of the designated use of the water and the water quality criteria based upon the water’s designated use.[138]This determination is based on the Clean Water Act’s mandate of protecting surface water quality of the states. [139]A TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still safely meet water quality standards. [140]TMDLs are established at levels necessary to attain and maintain water quality that considers seasonal variations and a margin of safety for any lack of knowledge concerning the relationship between effluent limitations and water quality. [141]Further, a total maximum daily thermal load, which is the total allowable heating of the water, cannot be exceeded in order to protect the balance of indigenous shellfish, fish, and wildlife populations.[142]The total maximum thermal load takes into account normal water temperatures, flow rates, seasonal variations, existing sources of heat input, and the dissipative capacity of the identified waters.[143]The DEP is the lead agency in establishing and regulating the TMDL’s of the state.[144]Should the standard not be attained, then the TMDL may be revised only if it assures the attainment of the water quality standard.[145]

In creating and managing the TMDLs, the DEP is required to coordinate with local governments, water management districts, environmental groups, regulated interests, the FDACS, and the controlled pollution sources in managing the program. [146]Further, the DEP’s secretary is able to voluntarily enter into an ecosystem management agreement with a regulated entity to better achieve the goals of the department. [147]The FDACS, the Secretary of Transportation, the FWCC, the DCA, and WMDs are able to enter into and assist in the development of similar agreements. [148]As a result of entering into a binding agreement, an entity may have waivers and variances granted under applicable rules. [149]

The DEP and WMDs are also able to develop basin management plans that apply to some or all of the watersheds and basins that affect a water body.[150]  Basin management plans are management action plans that equitably allocate pollutant reductions to individual basins, as a whole to all basins, or to each identified point source or category of nonpoint sources.[151]Basin management plans integrate management tools available to the DEP in addressing TMDLs. [152]  One of the ways basin management plans implement other strategies is through BMPs. [153]Because the plans have a broad effect, basin management plans are required to allow the FDACS, local governments, WMDs, environmental groups, and other affected parties to participate in the planning process.[154]

Additionally, minimum flow and level thresholds are required for surface waters of the state. [155]Minimum flow is defined as, “the minimum water flow at which further withdrawals would be significantly harmful to the water resources or ecology of the area.”[156]This definition applies to both surface waters and groundwaters of the state, though groundwaters are assigned “levels” rather than “flows”. [157]The WMDs of the state are the responsible agencies for developing minimum flow and level thresholds. [158]In making its determination, each WMD does not have to examine water bodies less than 25 acres unless the waters have a great impact on surrounding waters or ecology. [159]The determinations are based on future as well as present consumptive and non consumptive usage and the effects on the surrounding ecology. [160]After the determination is made, the DEP reviews the reports and makes its own separate determination about what actions, if any, to take.[161]The WMD’s must also submit a priority list and schedule for the water bodies that need to have minimum flows and levels evaluated. [162]Should an affected person challenge the determinations of the minimum flow or levels, that person may provide a written request to the DEP to have an independent scientific peer review of the determinations. [163]The DEP and WMDs are able to do the same as the affected person in requesting independent peer reviews. [164]

B.  WMDs and FDACS

Another integrated approach, which seems to reveal the awareness of the legislature to interagency interests, is the clarification of roles between WMDs and the FDACS. As the state Legislature recognized that wetland protection and agriculture are valuable to the state, legislation was adopted to streamline efforts in regulation between the FDACS and WMDs. The ultimate discharge from agricultural water management systems is now managed by WMDs.[165]However, this does not mean that the FDACS does not have an input on how the systems are managed. The FDACS is mandated by statute to create an agricultural water conservation program.[166]The program coordinates with federal and state agencies to ensure input from the various areas of responsibility. [167]In addition to the creation of an agricultural water conservation program, the FDACS works with the DEP and WMDs to create BMPs for water management. The joint agency inputs include irrigation system design and integrated water management systems.[168]As new technologies and techniques become available, the agencies are required to evaluate the existing practices to determine if the new practices should be implemented.[169]In this way, the priorities of both water management and agriculture are addressed.

C.  Best Management

Environmental BMPs are specific industry practices that take into account economic, technological, social and ecological effects an industry may have. [170]The development of BMPs by the FDACS, the DEP, and WMDs allows for the agency with respective authority over a given area to permit regulatory incentives in exchange for an entity implementing BMPs. BMPs are also used to reconcile the incongruences between state priorities. For example The Florida Right to Farm Act is the result of a legislative determination that agricultural production and agricultural lands are irreplaceable and unique resources. [171]The Florida Right to Farm Act provides that agricultural activities actually preserve the landscape and environmental resources of the state. [172]The Right to Farm Act allows farm operations to change practices to comply with BMPs and other operations if the farm was in operation for more than one year. [173]Additionally, in recognition of this conundrum between the public interest in farming, water conservation, and a clean environment, the Legislature has addressed the concern of conflicting regulations and priorities.

Generally a county is able to regulate farming practices. [174]However, should the farm operation be regulated through BMPs, then the county cannot adopt an ordinance that limits the activity of the farm operation.[175]Further, counties may not charge a fee for stormwater management on a farm operation if the farm operation has, among other things, implemented best management practices adopted by the DEP, the FDACS, or a WMD as part of a statewide or regional program. [176]The Legislature has left the fertilizer management up to the local governments and the FDACS. (See supra Florida Department of Agriculture Consumer Services and Local Governments). However, incentives to use BMPs make their implementation desirable.[177]If an applicator uses BMPs and the DEP has verified the effectiveness and compliance with the water quality standards of the state, the applicator is presumed to be in compliance with the state’s water quality standards.

D.  Florida Friendly-Landscapes

In addition to the many advisory functions of the DEP, municipalities, like Sarasota and Pinellas Counties, often rely on studies published by the DEP and the University of Florida. The studies are essentially BMPs with the title of “Florida Friendly Landscapes.” The publications are based on findings and opinions from pest management, nursery, turfgrass, landscape, and other associations.[178]Additionally, the FDOT, the FDACS, the DEP, and WMDs have input into the publication and findings. The Legislature has found that “Florida Friendly Landscapes” significantly contributes to water conservation, quality protection, and restoration.[179]The county commissioners are required to consider the landscapes for each county, and each county is required to implement Florida Friendly Landscapes if the board for the county determines that the benefits of the landscape outweigh the costs. [180]In furtherance of its finding, the Legislature required the Florida Department of Management Services to use Florida Friendly Landscapes on public property where publicly owned buildings were constructed after June 2009. [181]WMDs were required to do the same.[182]In addition to public buildings, the Legislature requires the Department of Transportation to implement Florida Friendly Landscaping in projects such as medians.[183]The Legislature determined that the use of Florida-Friendly Landscaping, and other water use and pollution prevention measures, served a compelling public interest to conserve or protect the state's water resources.[184]

E.  Growth and Development

A lot of the state’s problems are caused by the massive amount of growth the state has seen in the past decades. Florida’s natural resources are under pressure from the increasing demand of developers, industrialists, and homeowners.  While the state has programs like the Areas of Critical State Concern and Developments of Regional Impact, additional legislation gives developers an incentive to qualify for expedited permitting. [185]The DEP has oversight into the creation of regional teams that expedite review of permits and local comprehensive plans submitted by businesses and local governments. [186]The Legislature’s intent behind the review process was to promote a “thoughtful” plan that takes into consideration the environment and the economy.[187]The memorandum of agreement for each qualified project receives input from the FDACS, the FWCC, WMDs, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Economic Opportunity. [188]

A local comprehensive plan is required to provide the “principles, guidelines, standards, and strategies for the orderly and balanced future economic, social, physical, environmental, and fiscal development of the area that reflects community commitments to implement the plan and its elements.” [189]In order to assure compliance, a local municipality or county must transmit its proposed local comprehensive plan to the DCD, the DEP, the FWCC, and the FDACS for review.[190]These various interests approve the plan or make recommendations that the local government considers when making amendments to the local plan. (See supra Division of Community Developmentand the Administration Commission).The local comprehensive plan is also used to coordinate with the comprehensive plans of adjacent municipalities, the county, adjacent counties, or the region.[191]The local plan also coordinates with the appropriate WMD’s regional water supply plans by requiring that an affected WMD adopt a regional water supply plan that is consistent with the local and state comprehensive plan as well as the state’s water policy. [192]

Despite the massive influence that the governor and the administrative council have on the system, the state’s growth strategies still reflect environmental concerns through the interagency inputs and designated areas. Growth and development is one of the driving forces of environmental degradation. Without the integrated system, unregulated growth would make environmental and natural resource management all the more difficult.

IV.  A Model Framework?

The framework in Florida for interagency agreements, discussions, recommendations, and regulations encourages interested parties and agencies to work together towards a comprehensive environmental approach. Florida's environmental approach integrates many of the environmental programs to avoid the tunnel-vision that many agencies face. Agencies, by the nature of how they are normally structured, have the incentive to only focus on the directives to which they are assigned. This causes agencies to focus on programs that keep the money, and approval ratings, secure.

Florida's system is not perfect. The practical implications of politics and policies could be improved. The governor makes many of the appointments to the agencies and, as such, the political viewpoints towards management and regulations are often altered when administrations change. Because many of the appointments made by the governor have the same political leanings, the state comprehensive plan, including the growth management strategies, and the environmental approaches of the state would, in effect, be under the governor’s control. However, the governor of the state and the commissioner of the FDACS are both elected officials. The commissioner of Agriculture can be viewed as a safeguard against the many governors’ appointments. The commissioner interjects the FDACS's interests in the BMPs, water management plans, and other environmental programs that the FDACS is able to provide commentary or input. Without the FDACS’s input there is potential for a governor to disregard the interests of the agricultural industry. Further, agencies follow the statutory directives. Therefore, the safeguards to protect Florida's natural resources, which include the aforementioned requirements for interested agency and interested party input, do provide protection to the environment. However, despite these many statutory and regulatory measures implemented to protect the natural resources of the state, elected officials still retain the ability to administer policies that may have a detrimental effect on the state’s environment. Therefore, because the separation of powers is such an important aspect of our system, political choice is an inherent variable of any system of governance.

In addition to the political variables, scientific approaches are often unacceptable or antiquated and therefore lead to an inefficient system for implementing water management plans or other environmental regulations. The environmental conditions of many state waters are deteriorating despite the implementation of total maximum daily loads, minimum flows, permitting, and other environmental regulations. However, in an effort to foster more progressive scientific methods, Florida permits a private party to challenge scientific methodologies, which the state proposes in regulations and action plans, by initiating peer reviews. [193]If the peer review determines that a challenge to a plan is warranted, then an administrative law judge may consider the independent review as evidence that the scientific method implemented in determining the regulation is inadequate to deal with the purported purpose of the environmental regulation. [194]The judge must enter an order within 120 days.[195]

There will always be friction between interested parties. Whether it be an environmental organization striving for greater regulations on an industrial or commercial entity wanting fewer regulations, the government must function to balance the needs. As has been shown, the Florida Legislature has taken a giant step in the right direction by giving direction to the policies of the state towards greater protection of the internal resources. The Legislature has not disregarded the commercial, industrial, or agricultural interests of the state. This can clearly be seen by the interested parties that make up the various committees, governing boards, and agencies.

Despite the criticisms of Florida's environmental approach, the system has great potential applications to other environmental regimes. Vertical regulatory systems, systems with top down authority, can benefit from the integrated lateral entities. Lateral entities are those entities that have the same regulatory and enforcement powers. Further, systems with vertical regulatory authority would benefit from regional councils that receive delegated authority from the overarching regulatory body. These regional councils, like with the Florida system, would be better suited to harmonize the overall plans with the regional maintenance. The system would further breakdown into the individual state or province authorities that would combine the broader state plans with the local needs.

 A United Nations Environmental Program (“UNEP”) technical report, which dealt with marine protected area governance, revealed that establishing a clear and strong legal basis to enable well-integrated conservation efforts to be taken across different sectors and jurisdictions would help to overcome the traditional problems of environmental governance. Further, the technical report emphasized that critical to proper governance, in this instance environmentally protected areas, is sufficient state capacity, political will, and resources for the enforcement of conservation laws and regulations. In addition to the regulatory framework, a combination and interconnection of different incentives from different categories assisted in government frameworks being more resilient against the so-called perturbing driving forces that made the system unstable.[196]Driving forces include exploitative activities such as pressures from immigration, tourism, and resource extraction.[197]The technical report listed suggested incentives that are similar to what Florida implements, such as maximizing scientific knowledge to inform the decision-making of the regulatory authorities. [198]The report also suggested coordination between the state and local authorities and between other environmental government agencies to address cross-jurisdictional and cross-sectoral conflicts

 to support the achievement of the regulatory objectives. While on the surface it would appear that this report suggests systems for international environmental regulation, the report is suggesting the system for domestic governments. Thus, for states that experience fragmented development and environmental interests, the integrated approach seen here can foster greater environmental effectiveness while maintaining the strong need for development.

The suggestions to local governance made by the UNEP are very similar to the Florida system. While political and scientific variables remain inherent hurdles, they continue to be heavily influenced by the public. The cliché phraseology of the power being with the individual still remains true. However, while public perception may be fickle when it comes to environmental issues, the Florida system provides a framework that allows for the introduction of new ideas and practices that will foster the development of the many diverse interests that Florida offers.


[1]U.S. Geological Survey, 2009-5125, Scientific Investigations Report: Water withdrawals, Use, and Trends in Florida, p. 2 (2005)

[2]U.S. Geological Survey, 2009-5125, Scientific Investigations Report: Water withdrawals, Use, and Trends in Florida, p. 2 (2005)

[3]Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Annual Report on Regional Water Supply Planning March 2010

[4]State of Florida, U.S. Census Data available at http://www.stateofflorida.com/Portal/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=95

[5]Fl. Const. art. II, § 7

[6]Fla. Stat. § 403.021 (2011)

[7]Fla. Stat. § 403.011-.261 (1967)


[9]Fla. Stat.§ 403.801 (1997)

[10]Id. at § 4

[11]Fla. Stat. § 20.255(7) (2011)


[13]Fla. Stat. §§ 213, 1 (1993)

[14]Fla. Stat. § 403.804 (2011)


[16]Fla. Stat. § 20.255(7)(3) (2011)

[17]Fla. Stat §§ 403.067(1), 380.22 (2011)

[18]Fla. Stat §§403.061(14), 403.0611, 403.061(11) (2011)

[19]Fla. Stat. § 373.036 (2011)

[20]Fla. Stat § 403.061(3), 373.046 (2011)

[21]Fla. Stat. § 120.536 (2011)

[22]Fla. Stat. § 373.069 (2011)


[24]Fla. Stat. § 373.073(1)(a) (2011)


[26]Fla. Stat. § 373.073(2) (2011)

[27]Fla. Stat. § 373.036(2) (2011)


[29]Fla. Stat. § 373.036 (2011)

[30]Fla. Stat. § 373.036(2) (2011)

[31]Florida Water Resources Monitoring Council, Monitoring-Coordination Action Plan December, at 2 (2008)

[32]Id. at p. 2

[33]Id. at p. 2

[34]Fla. Stat. § 161.73 (2011)

[35]Fla. Stat. § 161.74 (2011)

[36]Fla. Stat. § 161.72 (2011)

[37]Fla. Stat. §§ 161.74, 161.72 (2011)

[38]Fla. Stat. § 161.71 (2011)

[39]Fla. Stat. § 161.73 (2011)


[41]Fla. Stat. § 570.07 (2011)

[42]Fla. Stat. § 163.3162 (2011)

[43]Fla. Stat. § 570.07(7) (2011)

[44]U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Economic Research Service: Florida, available at http://www.ers.usda.gov/StateFacts/FL.HTM#FFI

[45]Fla. Stat. §§ 487.0435, 576.021, 570.07 (2011)

[46]Fla. Stat. §§ 120.536, 120.54 (2011)

[47]Fla. Stat. § 576.045 (2011)

[48]Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 62-302.530 (2011)

[49]Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 62-302 (2011)

[50]Fla Stat. § 576 (2011)

[51]Fla. Stat. § 570.085 (2011)

[52]Fla. Stat. § 582.21 (2011)


[54]Fla. Stat. § 582.26 (2011)

[55]Fla. Stat. § 582.20 (2011)


[57]Fla. Stat. § 582.30 (2011)

[58]Fla. Stat. § 582.06 (2011)



[61]Fla. Stat § 570.0705 (2011)


[63]Fla. Stat. § 582.08 (2011)


[65]Fla. Stat. § 20.60 (2011)


[67]Fla. Stat. §§186.009,187 (2011)

[68]Fla. Stat. § 186.009 (2011)


[70]Fla. Stat. § 186 (2011)

[71]Fla. Stat. § 186.504 (2011)


[73]Fla. Stat § 163.3174 (2011)

[74]Fla. Stat. § 163.3184 (2011)

[75]http://www.floridajobs.org/fdcp/dcp/DRIFQD/Files/driflow.bmp (describing application process)

[76]http://cabinet.myflorida.com/members.html (describing who makes up the cabinet is found here)

[77]Fla. Stat. § 380.06 (2011)


[79]Fla. Stat. § 380.06, Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 28-24 (2011)(describing thresholds)

[80]Fla. Stat § 380.07 (2011)


[82]Fla. Stat. § 380.05 (2011)



[85]Fla. Stat § 380.045 (2011)

[86]Fla. Stat § 380.05 (2011)


[88]Fla. Stat. § 380.07 (2011)

[89]Fla. Stat. § 380.05(22) (2011)

[90]Fla. Stat. § 380.05(23) (2011)

[91]Fla. Stat § 380.061 (2011)

[92]Id., Florida Dept. of Economic Opportunity, Developments of Regional Impact and Areas of Critical State Concern, available at http://www.floridajobs.org/community-planning-and-development/programs/developments-of-regional-impact-and-florida-quality-developments

[93]Fla. Stat. § 380.061 (2011)

[94]Fla. Stat. § 380.061(6)(a) (2011)

[95]Fla. Stat. § 379.102 (2011), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,  http://myfwc.com/about/commission/commissioners/ (last visited Dec. 1, 2011) (noting the background of the current commissioners)

[96]Fla. Stat. § 379 (2011)

[97]Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, http://myfwc.com/about/ (last visited Dec. 1, 2011)

[98]Fla. Stat. § 379.1025 (2011)


[100]Fla. Stat. § 379.208 (2011)

[101]Fla. Stat. § 379.208 (2011)


[103]Fla. Stat. § 379.212 (2011)


[105]Fla. Stat. § 379.224 (2011)



[108]U.s. Census Bureau, Florida, available at http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/12000.html

[109]State of Florida, http://www.stateofflorida.com/Portal/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=35 (last visited Dec. 1, 2011)

[110]Fla. Stat. § 403.182 (2011)



[113]Fla. Stat. § 403.182(4)(c) (2011)

[114]Fla. Stat. § 403.067 (2011)

[115]Fla. Stat. §§ 125.568, 166.048, 373.185, 373.228 (2011)

[116]Fla. Stat. § 163 (2011)

[117]Sarasota County, Fla., Fertilizer and Landscape Management Code, Ordinance No. 2007-062 (2011)




[121]Id. at § 54-1025

[122]Sarasota County, Fla., Fertilizer and Landscape Management Code, Ordinance No. 2007-062 (2011)

[123]Id. at § 54-1032

[124]Florida-Friendly Landscape Guidance Models for Ordinances, Covenants, and Restrictions, at 14

[125]Pinellas County, Fla., Ordinance No. 10-06

[126]Id. at § 58-475(a)-(b)



[129]Id. at § 58-482



[132]Id. at § 58-480

[133]Pinellas County Ordinance No.10-06, § 58-476 (2011)

[134]Id. at § 58-476(d)

[135]Fla. Stat. §§ 163.3162, 403.021 (2011)

[136]Fla. Stat. § 186.002 (2011)

[137]Fla. Stat. § 403.067 (2011)

[138]33 U.S.C. § 1313 (c)(2)(a) (2011)

[139]33 U.S.C § 1313 (2011)

[140]40 C.F.R. § 130.7 (2011)


[142]33 U.S.C. § 1313(d) (2011)


[144]Fla. Stat. § 403.067 (1) (2011)

[145]33 U.S.C. § 1313(d)(4)(a) (2011)

[146]Fla. Stat. § 403.067 (1) (2011)

[147]Fla. Stat. § 403.0752 (2011)

[148]Id. at §5

[149]Id. at § (8)(e)

[150]Fla. Stat. § 403.067(7) (2011)





[155]Fla. Stat. § 373.042 (2011)

[156]Id. at (1)


[158]Id. at (2)

[159]Fla. Stat § 373.0421 (2011)


[161]Fla. Stat. § 373.042 (2011)

[162]Id. at (2)

[163]Id. at (b)


[165]Fla. Stat. § 403.927 (2011)

[166]Fla. Stat. § 570.085 (2011)




[170]Florida Dept. of Envtl. Protection, Best Management Practices for the Enhancement of Environmental Quality on Florida Golf Courses (2007) (noting a typical example of interagency input)

[171]Fla. Stat. § 823.14 (2011)


[173]Fla. Stat. § 823.14(b) (2011)

[174]Id. at (6)


[176]Fla. Stat. §163.3162 (2011)

[177]Fla. Stat §§ 823.14,163.3162 (2011)

[178]Florida-Friendly Landscape Guidance Models for Ordinances, Covenants, and restrictions p. iv

[179]Fla. Stat § 255.259 (2011)

[180]Fla. Stat. §§  125.568, 168.048 (2011)

[181]Fla. Stat. § 255.259 (2011)

[182]Fla. Stat. § 373.187 (2011)

[183]Id. at (4)(a), Fla. Stat. § 335.167 (2011)

[184]Fla. Stat. § 335.167 (2011)

[185]Fla Stat § 403.973 (2011)




[189]Fla. Stat. § 163.3168 (2011)

[190]Fla Stat § 163.3184 (2011)

[191]Fla. Stat. § 163.3177 (2011)

[192]Fla. Stat § 373.709 (2011)

[193]Fla. Stat. § 373.042 (2011)


[195]Fla. Stat § 373.042(5) (2011)

[196]U.N. Envtl. Programme, Final Technical Rep. of the Governing MPA’s – Final Technical Report pp. xiv-xv

[197]UNEP Governing MPA’s – Final Technical Report pp. xvii

[198]UNEP Governing MPA’s – Final Technical Report p. xiv -xvi


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