BASIS OF REVIEW FOR SURFACE WATER MANAGEMENT PERMIT
THE SOUTHWEST FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT
CRITERIA FOR REVIEW OF ISOLATED WETLANDS IMPACTS
1.0 INTRODUCTION The intent of the District is to implement
the legislative policy of Section 373.016(2), Florida Statutes,
which addresses the management of water and related land
resources, including isolated wetlands and their associated fish
and wildlife functions and values.
Chapter 86-186, Laws of Florida, creating Section 373.414,
Florida Statutes, requires that certain Water Management
Districts establish permitting criteria governing isolated
wetlands including a threshold size for isolated wetlands below
which impacts to fish and wildlife habitat will not be
considered. This Appendix addresses that statute. The issues of
water quantity and quality in relation to isolated wetlands are
addressed in other parts of Chapter 40D-4, F.A.C.
Individual and cumulative losses of small isolated wetlands
may cause significant adverse impacts to fish and wildlife on a
local or regional level. Protection of existing isolated
wetlands by incorporation into surface water management systems
is the preferred alternative to destruction and mitigation or
other forms of compensation because of the uncertainty of current
mitigation technology to re-create the various functions and
values of isolated wetlands.
2.0 DEFINITIONS The terms defined in this section are intended
to help the applicant understand the intent of the language used
throughout this Appendix.
2.1 ISOLATED WETLAND Any wetland as defined pursuant to
Chapter 40D-4, F.A.C., which is not hydrologically connected to
Waters of the State and is not within the Department of
Environmental Regulation jurisdiction for purposes of regulation
of dredging and filling.
2.2 COMPENSATION Measures provided to offset adverse impacts to
wetlands, including one or more of the following:
(b) Inclusion of upland areas, beyond any required buffer
zones, to maintain upland/wetland habitat diversity;
(c) Establishment of vegetated littoral zones in on-site
(d) Protection of exempt wetlands;
(e) Restoration of wetlands that have been previously
(f) Compensation on off-site lands; and
(g) Other reasonable measures, such as providing unlike
2.3 MITIGATION Replacement of a wetland, type for type, to
restore those specific physical and functional characteristics
which will be lost as a result of the proposed activity.
2.4 DEVELOPMENT PROJECT The total land, in acres, under one
permit and under common ownership or control, which is served by
a common surface water management system.
2.5 BUFFER ZONE An area adjacent to an isolated wetland which
protects wetland function and minimizes adverse impacts of upland
development on wetland function.
3.0 WETLANDS EXEMPT FROM FISH AND WILDLIFE REVIEW Isolated
wetlands less than 0.5 acres in size regardless of property
boundaries are exempt from review for impacts to fish and
wildlife and their habitats. This exemption does not apply if:
(a) A wetland is used by, or can reasonably be expected to
be used by, endangered or threatened species designated
in Section 581.185, F.S.; Rules 39-27.03 and 39-27.04,
F.A.C.; or 50 CFR 17.11 and 17.12; or
(b) The total acreage of isolated wetlands exceeds 30% of
the acreage of a development project greater than 40
(c) A wetland is located in an area of critical state
concern designated pursuant to Chapter 380, F.S.; or
(d) Two or more wetlands regardless of property boundaries
have a combined area greater than 0.5 acre and are
connected by standing or flowing surface water during
average wet season high water levels. This connection
can be established by water elevation indicators such
as lichens, adventitious roots, water stains, soil
profiles, aerial photographs or other acceptable
4.0 REVIEW PROCEDURES
4.1 EFFECTIVE DATE This Appendix will apply to all pending and
new applications which have not been issued letters of
completeness on the effective date of this Appendix.
4.2 CONCEPTUAL APPROVAL Applications which propose to impact
isolated wetlands may be approved in concept with a Letter of
4.3 APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS Detailed proposals must be
submitted as part of the application for conceptual approval or
as part of the application for a Surface Water Management
Construction and Operation Permit and shall include:
(a) A description of the type and function of the wetland
being impacted, which shall include area, vegetative
community and hydrologic regime.
(b) A list of all plant and animal species listed as
endangered or threatened which use, or can reasonably
be expected to use, the area. The applicant will also
supply an evaluation of the probable significance of
the area to the listed species. Endangered or
threatened species are identified in Section 581.185
F.S., and rules 39-27.03 and 39-27.04 F.A.C., and 50
CFR 17.11 and 17.12.
(c) A statement of:
1. alternatives considered instead of wetland impacts
2. reasons the wetlands cannot be incorporated into
the project surface water management system or
(d) Additional information as required to evaluate site
specific conditions or unique project designs.
4.4 APPROVAL OF OPERATION PHASE The approval of the operation
phase of a project which impacts isolated wetlands shall not
become effective pursuant to Rule 40D-4.381(2)(d), Florida
Administrative Code, (Limiting Conditions) until required
compensation is provided and has met the success criteria
established under Section 8.0.
5.0 WETLAND PERMITTING CRITERIA Protection of wetlands, i.e.,
incorporation of wetland into the surface water management
system, is preferred because of the uncertainty of current
mitigation technology to restore or create the various functions
and values of isolated wetlands. Wetland destruction and
compensation shall be considered only when the applicant has
(a) there are no reasonable development alternatives to
adverse wetland impacts for the particular site;
(b) compensation measures can be successful; and
(c) the protection of endangered and threatened species is
Subsections 5.1 and 5.2 set forth options that allow the
applicant to select either the rigid or flexible wetland design
5.1 RIGID DESIGN CRITERIA Under this option, the applicant
must mitigate for the loss of each non-exempt isolated wetland
that is to be impacted by the development project. Only
mitigation is allowed as compensation. This option leaves to the
applicant the determination of which wetlands, with the exception
of those identified in Section 5.2.4, can be impacted. The
applicant must adhere to the following specific criteria:
(a) Mitigation of wetlands shall be at the following
WETLAND TYPE ACRES IMPACTED MITIGATED ACREAGE REQUIRED
Forested 1 2.5
Non-forested 1 1.5
(b) For non-exempt wetlands below 5.0 acres, the applicant
must give reasonable assurance that the mitigation will
be successful as described in Section 8.0.
(c) For wetlands 5.0 acres and larger, mitigation must be
successful as defined in Section 8.0 prior to any
impact to an existing wetland.
(d) The applicant must comply with Sections 6.0 and 7.0.
5.1.1 BUFFER ZONES A buffer zone 15 feet wide is required on
all existing non-exempt or mitigated wetlands. The vegetation
within the buffer zone shall be left undisturbed except for
temporary disturbances for construction of pipes, swales or other
5.2 FLEXIBLE DESIGN CRITERIA The District encourages the
applicant to consider unique and innovative design ideas with the
intent of creating a post development functioning wetland/upland
system. Under this approach, the applicant would work closely
with staff on a case-by-case basis to discuss various
compensation measures that would be acceptable. All compensation
proposals, including mitigation, must meet the applicable
requirements of Sections 7.0. and 8.0. This process may increase
the pre-application time required by the applicant to design the
project, but could allow for greater economic benefits while
still meeting the District objectives of protecting fish and
wildlife habitat through a flexible and innovative design. The
applicant must demonstrate to the District that these unique and
innovative designs are consistent with the District's intent to
protect fish and wildlife including meeting the criteria in
5.2.1 REQUIRED INFORMATION The applicant is advised to consult
with the District to determine the information necessary to
assess and design compensation for a flexible development
project. The District has provided acceptable assessment
criteria in Section 6.0. The District will also consider
applicable numerical and productivity models, when appropriate.
5.2.2 ALLOWABLE COMPENSATION The District will consider, on a
case-by-case basis, the following types of compensation with the
objective of maintaining or creating a successful fish and
(a) Acreage credit at greater than 1 for 1 for protection
of wetlands below the exemption size in exchange for
impacts to larger wetlands that can more easily absorb
(b) Creation of wildlife corridors.
(c) Designation of additional buffer zone beyond the
required 15 foot buffer zone.
(d) Compensation on other lands. Final approval of this
type of project design rests with the District
(e) Development of disturbed wetlands with their loss
compensated for by mitigation at ratios less than those
required in 5.1.(a) based on the degree of disturbance
and the remaining functional qualities. Mitigation
through restoration of other disturbed wetlands is
preferred over wetland creation.
(f) Other reasonable compensation measures.
5.2.3 BUFFER ZONES A buffer zone not to exceed 15 feet may be
required on all existing or mitigated wetlands above the size
threshold. Land cover changes within the buffer zone may be
allowed as part of the system design.
5.2.4 PROTECTION OF ENDANGERED OR THREATENED SPECIES The
applicant must provide reasonable assurance that any proposal to
impact wetlands shall protect endangered and threatened species
designated pursuant to Sections 581.185, F.S., Rules 39-27.03 and
39-27.04, F.A.C., or 50 CFR 17.11 and 17.12. Any compensation
proposals for wetlands containing any of these species will be
reviewed by the district on a case-by-case basis. The District
may require additional buffer zone area, wetland protection,
mitigation prior to wetland impacts, or other measures when
necessary for the protection of threatened and endangered
6.0 WETLAND ASSESSMENT CRITERIA The applicant must provide the
information necessary to evaluate and assess the current fish and
wildlife habit of any wetland to be impacted. This assessment
will be used to determine if the applicant is proposing
reasonable assurance of compensation, and will also be used as
the basis of comparison for wetland compensation success
criteria. It is suggested the applicant discuss with staff the
items needed for an assessment. The following is a comprehensive
list of possible wetland assessment criteria:
(a) Number and composition of species comprising
representative components of the wetland community,
including, but not limited to, phytoplankton,
periphyton, macrophytic vegetation, invertebrates,
fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.
(b) Evidence of trends which may indicate projected habitat
functions if the subject property were to remain in its
current condition. Indicators primarily include
responses by vegetation to changes in historic water
(c) Significance to local and regional landscape patterns
including ecotone quality and extent, relative
abundance of similar habitat and biota, and location of
(d) Population statistics on selected species comprising
the subject wetland. Parameters may include, but not
be limited to, density, age distribution or spatial
distribution (e.g. tree survey).
(e) Water quality and hydroperiod in the subject wetland.
7.0 WETLAND COMPENSATION REQUIREMENTS
7.1 The applicant must demonstrate that compensation is
reasonably assured. The applicant must provide the following for
projects where mitigation or other compensation is proposed. The
District may allow exceptions to these requirements under the
flexible design criteria.
7.1.1 Wetland monitoring and maintenance programs including
source of plants or mulch if not supplied by a commercial plant
nursery, will be required for proposals involving mitigation or
7.1.2 Monitoring and maintenance requirements will normally be
established based on wetland type, size, complexity and
construction schedule. Monitoring parameters, monitoring duration
and required maintenance will be specified in the permit
7.1.3 Unless mitigation is required prior to wetland impacts,
the permit shall delineate the mitigation or other compensation
to be completed in each phase of construction to offset the
wetlands lost by that phase.
8.0 WETLAND COMPENSATION SUCCESS CRITERIA
8.1 Mitigated wetlands or other compensation measures involving
wetland re-creation will be considered successful when the
created wetland provides an equal or greater habitat function
when compared with the original wetland assessment. Compensation
is successful when the following parameters meet or exceed those
similar parameters as identified in the initial assessment done
under 5.2.1 or 6.0.
8.1.1 The number, composition, and relative abundance of plant
species in the created wetland approximate conditions in the
initial assessment of the wetland to be mitigated for (reference
wetland), or conditions specified in the permit, if different.
Exotic plant species shall not be replaced.
8.1.2 Percent vegetative coverage in all created wetlands and
percent canopy closure in created forested wetlands approximate.
conditions in the reference wetland or conditions specified in
the permit, if different.
8.1.3 Percent survival of plant species in the created wetland
meets or exceeds the level specified in permit conditions.
8.1.4 Water quality in the created wetland meets or exceeds
conditions in the reference wetland or conditions specified in
the permit, if different.
8.1.5 Habitat value in the created wetland, as measured by the
number, composition and relative abundance of animal species,
approximates conditions in the reference wetland or conditions
specified in the permit, if different, and
8.1.6 Hydroperiod in the created wetland approximates conditions
in the reference wetland or conditions specified in the permit,
NAME OF PERSON ORIGINATING RULE: Bruce C. Wirth, Assistant
Director, Resource Regulation Department.
NAME OF SUPERVISOR OR PERSON WHO APPROVED THE PROPOSED RULE:
Richard V. McLean, Director, Resource Regulation Department.
DATE PROPOSED RULE APPROVED: December 3, 1986