Thursday, September 3, 2009

Some Words About the DEP

If you’ve been following my posts then you already know that I have worked with the DEP in the past, as well as for this current issue. I’ve been all over the internet and read much about the DEP, mostly from angry people voicing their opinions when the DEP penalized them. I have to wonder, though, where we’d be without an agency to protect our environment.

Sure, we all have different opinions of what is important on this Earth, different agendas, and different interests. I’m sure that the majority of us are mostly concerned with how things affect us individually, and don’t give too much thought to the larger consequences of their actions. I have been guilty of that, and do try as I age to think “bigger”. All these different entities involved with my current issue clearly have differing goals. The neighbors want their fire line, for their own reasons. I want the wetlands and creek fixed. The DOF wants something else, and the SJRWMD got the fine task of being in the middle of it all. I suppose the SJRWMD frequently has a hard time being in the middle of people, agencies, developers, etc. who all want different things.

So how does this get resolved? Look at the law.

I recently ran across a forum posted by Flagler Estates, who has long been battling wetlands and water issues. There was a post from the DEP which I thought summed it up nicely. It reads:

Title: WETLAND information from TALLAHASSEE
Post by: jrichards on March 13, 2006, 01:17:31 PM

I'm in the Tallahassee office and I don't know what particular circumstances are happening in your area. I've contacted our Jacksonville office and Mike Eaton [ 904/807-3300 Ext. 3328 ] or Matt Kershner [904/807-3300 Ext. 3326 ] of that office can help you.

In the meantime, the state, all Florida counties, and all other state and local governmental entities that have authority over development that may affect wetlands and wetland protection in the state of Florida (except for the Army Corps of Engineers) utilize the same methodology to determine if an area is a wetland and where the boundaries of the wetland are located (how far out the wetland area extends to). This methodology is ratified in the Florida Statutes, so it's Florida law, and all entities must follow the same methodology. If you are interested in that methodology it is contained in Rule 62-340, Florida Administrative Code and is described in a book, The Florida Wetlands Delineation Manual, which is available to read on our web site at

Other tools for wetland delineation, such as help with plant identification and recognition of hydric soil characteristics are available at

The staff of the DEP (my agency) and the St. John's River Water Management District are very well trained in identifying and delineating wetlands. I would follow the information from these agencies on whether or not there are wetlands before I would follow the information from anyone else. And it's better to be safe then pay the fines for illegally filling wetlands.

As for those area you noticed that "were wetlands," I'm sure that some of that developed land was also high and dry upland. The state of Florida has an evaluation process that allows a person developing a parcel of land to first try to reduce or eliminate their proposed wetland impacts, then, if there are wetland impacts remaining they may mitigate for those impacts, which means they need to preserve or enhance wetlands and the important functions wetlands provide either on the property they are developing or on property within the same watershed, so that the downstream areas still benefit from the improvements. This is a complicated evaluation process that also is now standardized in Rule 62-345, F.A.C. This is the site to the F.A.C.

You can scroll down to Chapter 62 and find the rules I have cited.

Katherine Gilbert
Submerged Lands & Environmental Resources
Fl. Dept. Environmental Protection
Tallahassee, FL 32399-2400
850/245-8482; FAX 850/245-8499
SC 205-8482


So there we have it. One set of procedures for all to follow (except for the Army Corps. of Engineers), Ms. Gilbert writes.

The DEP, at least when working with us in the past, was very open and informative. They were willing to spend time with us and answer any questions we had, and gave us plenty of avenues through which we learned about the value of our wetlands.

I can’t really fault the DEP too much with this current situation, either. There are a couple of things I wonder about, such as why didn’t they write up an investigative report when they visited this site and were prepared to issue a Consent Order for the wetlands to be restored. I wonder what changed their mind from determining that there was no bona-fide silviculture practice going on next door to (after talking with Mr. Bruce Hill with the DOF, as I understand it) suddenly there IS. And I wonder why they are not addressing the damage to our property which is not silviculture in any way, shape or form. Perhaps they don’t know about the most current developments. Based on what Mr. Jensen (DEP) said, violations certainly exist, and the area where the damage happened is wetlands.

So we all come to an impasse. Square One. It remains that these wetlands, which help our entire neighborhood drain, are damaged. The DEP deferred to the SJRWMD, and the SJRWMD says the damage to our wetlands property is not a violation of their regulatory.

Whose then?


Anonymous said...

Jag har följt din blogg sedan början. Jag hittade din blogg genom "Something About Sweden" och hoppas att ni kan förstå svenska.

Har något varit fast? Det låter som din amerikanska regeringen ger dig axeln.
Jag är intresserad.

watchdog1776 said...

Hej Anonym! Tack för att du frågar. Hoppas att detta kommer ut rätt ... Nej, saker och ting inte fastställda ännu. Vi är tillbaka på "Square One", som betyder just när vi startade från, men med en mindre bankkonto. Vår advokat har några idéer, och vissa människor har gett oss några fler namn på organisationer att kontakta.

Hela problemet är att ingen vill erkänna att området skadades är våtmarker. Tills det händer kommer vi ingenstans.

Tack för ditt intresse och se till att vidarebefordra detta till andra personer som du tror kan vara intresserade.

Anonymous said...

After talking with you earlier, I had to check out your blog. When we were talking, I actually thought you must be blowing it out of proportion. After reading this and seeing the pictures on flickr, I have to say, this is a real mess!

I wonder how they'd like it if this much damage was done in the front yards of Mr. Bruce Hill, Mr. Dale Lovell, Mr. Vern Wickline, or any other involved official. Their entire lawn would be gone! I'm sure they'd all say that nothing need be done to restore that!

I have to quit writing before anger has me writing a novel here. I thought Florida had better enforcement than that. Boy was I wrong.

I wish you the best in your persuit of justice and a pox on the agencies and representatives who are not doing their jobs.

Dennis G.

watchdog1776 said...

Hi Dennis G.! Thanks for checking this out. What's happening in our actual yard now is getting worse by the day since the lawn is not draining off the way it used to. As soon as I get home, there will be some more images up for you to see.

I know what you mean about "writing a novel". It's hard not to get up on that soapbox every time I start talking about it. And let's not forget Mr. John W. Costigan in your list of folks you mentioned. None of them would stand still for someone bulldozing their yards!

Remind me to tell you about the recent things that have happened at our house in our absence. Sheer ridiculousness!

Anonymous said...

I came to your site while researching wetlands. You haven't posted anything in a while. I hope you will pick it back up again soon as it's an interesting case. It seems to me you've been screwed by a cover up or some political agenda - what scumbags would do this?! You might check with one of the native plant nurseries about the value of the trees and shrubs that were bulldozered. I think you have several years in which to file a claim for damages - Is this Costigan person such a jerk he won't give you the address to file a claim? Even if he won't, I'm sure you could find it on the web.
Too bad the this was yanked from the DEP. Don't become discouraged. If you quit, they'll win.

Stephanie Jensen
Pensacola, FL