|To kick-off the first interim committee week, the Water Quality, Supply and Treatment Subcommittee (Chair, Rep. Cyndi Stevenson (R-St. Johns)), met on Tuesday to hear presentations from DEP and the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD).|
Deputy Secretary Jessica Kramer of DEP outlined key programs that regulate and manage our state’s surface waters and wetlands, including the Submerged Lands and Environmental Resources Coordination Program, in charge of implementation of the state’s Environmental Resource Permitting Program.
Kristine Wentzel of the SJRWMD discussed mitigation banks. A mitigation bank is a wetland, stream, or other aquatic resource area that has been restored, established, enhanced, or (in certain circumstances) preserved for the purpose of providing compensation for unavoidable impacts to aquatic resources permitted under Section 404 or a similar state or local wetland regulation. Florida has a total of 131 mitigation banks that today cover almost 227,500 acres of land around the state. With development at an all-time high in Florida, the state is considering adding another 30 mitigation banks to the number available today.
Committee presentations on this topic indicate we will likely see legislation in the 2024 session that addresses wetland mitigation.
Audubon’s goal is to ensure Florida’s environmental policies foster a landscape of diverse, sustainable habitats that can meet the needs of common and imperiled species, both resident and migratory. Robust water management and wetland protection policies are critical, and we will work with the legislature to ensure all aspects of wetland functions are considered in any updates to our wetland protection programs.