PROTECTION OF WATER RESOURCES

What is being done to protect Florida's natural resources?
The very features that draw people to Florida are potentially endangered by the increased population pressures. To protect these distinctive natural features for the enjoyment of future generations, the Florida Legislature has enacted laws to regulate activities which may potentially pollute or destroy environmentally sensitive lands and waters.

What specifically is protected and how?
Laws and regulations have also been enacted to protect wetlands, seagrasses, mangroves, and endangered species such as manatees and sea turtles.

Who is the regulating authority in the State of Florida?
Generally, any activity conducted in, on, or over the surface waters of the State of Florida will require a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and/or State Water Management District. Such activities generally are also regulated by the counties and municipalities within the State.

What would happen if I built a dock?
Unless expressly exempted from permitting requirements, it is unlawful to conduct an activity, in, on or over surface waters, such as the construction of a dock, without first obtaining the required permit from the appropriate governmental agency. Any activity conducted without a required permit is considered a "public nuisance" and may be required to be removed. State and local governmental regulations provide specific criteria intended to protect waters and other natural resources which must be met before a permit will be issued. Such regulations may affect the location, size, configuration, and manner of construction of such activities as single-family docks, single-family dredge and fill, and shoreline stabilization (e.g., seawalls, bulkheads, and rip-rap).

What criteria must be met in order to obtain a permit for shoreline construction?
In order to obtain an Environmental Resource Permit from the State of Florida, an applicant will be required to demonstrate that the proposed activity will (1) not adversely affect public health, safety and welfare of the property of others; (2) not adversely affect fish and wildlife; (3) not impair navigation or surface water flows; (4) not adversely affect nearby fishing or recreational uses; and (5) not increase the potential for flooding or discharge of pollutants.(See PERMITTING under "Waterfront FAQ's" for more information)

What is meant by "Outstanding Florida Waters"?
Certain water bodies are provided with special heightened protection as a result of outstanding natural attributes. In order to conduct activities within these waters, classified as "Outstanding Florida Waters", additional standards must be satisfied. In particular, it must be demonstrated that the proposed activity will not result in a lowering of existing water quality, and that the proposed activity is "clearly in the public interest".

Frequently, in order to demonstrate that a proposed activity is "clearly in the public interest", a permit applicant will place the remaining wetlands upon the applicant's property within a "Conservation Easement", intended to preserve said wetlands in an undisturbed state in perpetuity.

Certain Outstanding Florida Waters are of such exceptional beauty and ecological significance that the Florida Legislature has designated such waters as "Aquatic Preserves". The management objectives for the Aquatic Preserves are to maintain and improve existing resources such as seagrasses, mangroves, aquatic plants, birds and fish. In practice, construction activities within Aquatic Preserves are regulated even more severely than those activities within Outstanding Florida Waters. Aquatic preserve regulations pertaining to the construction of a single-family boat dock, for example, require water depths which would provide at least one foot clearance between the top of seagrasses in the vicinity of the proposed dock, and the lowest portion of the boat to be moored said dock.

Where are these "Outstanding Florida Waters"?
Most of the bay waters in Sarasota and Manatee Counties are classified as "Outstanding Florida Waters", including the intracoastal waterway in Venice, Anna Maria Sound, Passage Key Inlet, Perico Bay, Palma Sola Bay, Longboat Pass, Sarasota Bay, New Pass, Big Sarasota Pass, Roberts Bay, Little Sarasota Bay, Dryman Bay, Blackburn Bay, Lyons Bay, Venice Inlet, and Dona Bay. Typically, neither natural nor artificial tributaries to such water bodies have been designated as "Outstanding Florida Waters".

The waters of Lemon Bay in Sarasota and Charlotte Counties, have been designated as an "Aquatic Preserve". Such waters include Placida Harbor, Gasparilla Pass, Kettle Harbor, Bocilla Lagoon, Bocilla Pass, Knight Pass, Stump Pass, Lemon Bay, and certain portions of Buck Creek, Oyster Creek, Ainger Creek, and Godfrey Creek
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