In 2022, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 965, now Chapter 2022-215, Laws of Florida. The bill authorizes the creation of water quality enhancement areas (WQEAs), which are defined as natural systems constructed, operated, managed, and maintained for the purpose of providing offsite regional treatment for which enhancement credits may be provided. In addition, the bill requires the construction, operation, management, and maintenance of a WQEA to be approved through the ERP permitting process and requires a WQEA to address the contributions of pollutants or constituents within a specific area determined by DEP that does not meet state water quality criteria.
To obtain a WQEA permit, the bill requires an applicant to provide certain reasonable assurances about the proposed WQEA and propose a performance and success criteria monitoring and verification plan as well as requires the WQEA permit to provide for the assessment, valuation, and award of credits based on units of pollutants removed. Furthermore, the bill specifies that a WQEA may only provide enhancement credits in an enhancement service area determined by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and specifies that enhancement credits may only be sold to governmental entities.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and water management districts (WMDs) are initiating rulemaking as directed by Section 1 of Chapter 2022-215, Laws of Florida, to authorize the sale and use of enhancement credits for specified purposes; providing construction; providing that the authority of the act is supplemental; and directing the department to maintain enhancement credit ledgers (see section 373.4134, F.S., as created by section 1 of Chapter 2022-215, Laws of Florida).
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.