The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Department) is working statewide to encourage local stakeholders to develop plans at the earliest practical time to restore waters not meeting state water quality standards. Early implementation of restoration activities is more cost effective, and may allow the Department to forgo certain regulatory steps (most notably, the development of total maximum daily loads [TMDLs] and basin management action plans [BMAPs]), thereby focusing limited local and state resources directly on measures that will improve water quality.
The Impaired Waters Rule (IWR) authorizes two types of restoration plans that avoid placement of a waterbody on the Verified List; therefore the optimal time to propose or submit one of these is during the assessment cycle and/or prior to TMDL development. Waterbodies with restoration plans meeting the requirements of Rule 62-303.600, F.A.C. (“4b plans” or “Reasonable Assurance Plans [RAPs]) are not placed on the Verified List or the 303(d) list. Waterbodies with restoration plans only meeting the requirements of Rule 62-303.390(2)(d), F.A.C. (4e plans) are placed on the Study List and the 303(d) list. 4b and 4e restoration plans are established in a streamlined manner compared to the process leading to BMAPs, and are a preferred alternative to the typical regulatory steps by the department as they expeditiously focus limited resources on remedying the identified impairment.
EPA regulations allow states to place certain impaired water bodies into Category 4b of the Integrated Report Categories instead of Category 5 – Impaired and needs a TMDL. The Florida Watershed Restoration Act (Section 403.067(4), F.S.) explicitly allows DEP to not list impaired waters under Category 5 if they already have control programs in place that will ensure water quality standards will be restored. These types of waterbodies – impaired, but with control programs already being implemented to reduce pollutant loadings – are placed in assessment Category 4b for Clean Water Act section 303(d) reporting purposes.
A waterbody can be placed in category 4e (Ongoing Restoration Activities) if it’s impaired but recently completed or ongoing restoration activities are underway to restore the designated uses of the waterbody. For 4e plans, the waterbody is still included on the 303(d) list, but placement on the Verified List is postponed for one five-year assessment cycle, to allow for implementation of the 4e plan and evaluation of progress toward restoration.
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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.