Florida League of Cities

Water Quality Enhancement Areas/Environmental Management (Watch)

SB 1426 (Burgess) and HB 965 (Truenow) provide for the construction, operation, maintenance and long-term management of offsite, regional, compensatory water treatment areas called "water quality enhancement areas." These areas will be used to offset impacts to water quality caused by increases in nutrient loading from development projects. Under the bills, water quality enhancement credits could be purchased from a water quality enhancement area to offset such development impacts. An "enhancement credit" is defined in the bills as a standard unit of measure which represents a quantity of pollutant removed. The bills specify that water quality enhancement areas must be regulated through permits issued by the Department of Environmental Protection. While the bills allow governmental entities to use water quality enhancement areas to address their water quality needs, the bills specify that governmental entities may not act as sponsors to construct, operate, manage, maintain or market enhancement credits to third parties. In addition, the bills provide that local governments may not require a permit or impose regulations governing the operation of an enhancement area. A water quality enhancement area permit applicant must provide reasonable assurances that an enhancement area will achieve defined performance criteria, benefit water quality and assure long-term pollutant reduction. The bills specify requirements for an enhancement area and require that such areas correspond to the appropriate basin management action plan boundary. The bills specify requirements for the generation of enhancement credits and provide that a local government may not deny the use of credits due to the location of the enhancement area being outside the jurisdiction of the local government. (O'Hara)