Wetland Protection

  • Dorothy Rainey

Wetland Protection is governed by the South West Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD). The County enforces regulations through SWFWMD requirements that have been adopted and placed in our Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code. When a new development comes in for review it has to comply with these regulations. Uniform Mitigation Assessment Methodology (UMAM) is used to determine the quality of a wetland if the developer is proposing impacts to it and also assists in determining what form of mitigation should be provided.

 

When a development project is reviewed, the applicant must provide an environmental narrative which provides information on wetlands on-site, their classification (i.e. forested or herbaceous) and whether or not any proposals will impact the wetlands. Staff works with the developer to provide some upland habitat preservation adjacent to wetlands to be protected when feasible, which makes the habitat more valuable to wildlife.
Wetlands that are to be protected must be placed into a conservation easement together with their wetland buffers and any adjacent upland habitat to be preserved. The conservation easement is granted to the County and recorded in the public records.
 
 
If wetland impacts are proposed then the Avoidance & Minimization of Wetland Impacts must be addressed. This includes providing a Uniform Mitigation Assessment Method (UMAM) score to indicate the quality of the wetland to be impacted as well as alternative layouts of the development that would not impact the wetland.
 
 
Finally, if wetland impacts are approved, the applicant must provide details on how wetland mitigation will be achieved (i.e. enhancement of other existing wetlands on-site, preservation of native upland habitat on-site, etc.). The permission to impact a wetland can only be given by the Board of County Commissioners and is evaluated by staff through review of all the required information. When a wetland impact is one half acre in size or smaller the County’s mitigation requirements apply. Otherwise, the SWFWMD requirements apply.
 
(Section 719 of the Land Development Code)