The Southwest Florida Water Management District (“District”) is responsible for managing and protecting water resources in west-central Florida. The District is both a geographical area covering roughly 10,000 square miles and a political subdivision of the state that serves a population of 4.7 million people. The District encompasses all or part of 16 counties, from Levy County in the north to Charlotte County in the south. It extends from the Gulf of Mexico east to the highlands of central Florida.
The District was initially established in 1961 as a flood protection agency. Since then, its responsibilities have grown to include managing the water supply, protecting water quality and preserving natural systems that serve important water-related functions. The District’s mission is to manage water and related natural resources to ensure their continued availability while maximizing benefits to the public. Central to the mission is maintaining the balance between the water needs of current and future users while protecting and maintaining water and related natural resources that provide the District with its existing and future water supply. The District has four core areas of responsibility: water supply, flood protection, water quality and natural systems, described below.
Florida statutes, primarily Chapter 373, F.S., authorize the District to direct a range of initiatives, programs and actions. These responsibilities can be grouped under four general areas which form the District’s core mission: water supply, water quality, natural systems and flood protection. The District has established a goal for each of these areas of responsibility.
Ensuring an adequate supply of the water resource to provide for all existing and future reasonable and beneficial uses while protecting and maintaining water resources and natural systems is central to the District’s mission. The District issues water use permits to ensure withdrawals from water bodies will not harm existing users, the water resources or the environment. The District also contributes funding and technical expertise to local governments for water conservation programs and alternative water supply development.
For water quality, the District’s goal is to protect and improve water quality to sustain the water, environment, economy and quality of life. The District is actively involved in maintaining and improving the water quality within its boundaries. District permits require new developments to capture and treat polluted stormwater before it is released. Other water quality activities include various stormwater improvement projects, plugging abandoned wells and restoration of habitats that naturally filter water.
The District’s goal for this area of responsibility is to preserve, protect and restore natural systems to support their natural hydrologic and ecologic functions. Protecting water-related natural systems increases the District’s ability to carry out all of its responsibilities. To protect natural systems, the District purchases and maintains lands that store floodwaters, secure future water supply or serve other water-related functions. Additional protection methods include habitat restoration, the establishment of minimum flows and levels for water bodies and regulatory permitting.
The District’s goal for flood protection is to minimize flood damage to protect people, property, infrastructure and investment. Flood protection is accomplished through structural and nonstructural methods. Structural methods include the operation of 18 flood protection structures. Nonstructural methods include purchasing and maintaining lands that store floodwaters, issuing permits to ensure new development does not cause flooding and contributing funds and technical expertise to local governments for flood protection programs.
The District is a solution-oriented agency that emphasizes scientific and technical excellence while also providing high quality service to its customers. As a public entity using tax dollars, the District seeks to operate transparently, hold itself accountable, and apply its processes, rules and regulations in a consistent manner. The District has recently undergone restructuring to increase efficiency, reduce duplication and lower operational costs. The District is also implementing new business processes and taking advantage of technological advances to improve efficiency. These efforts have enabled the District to reduce operating expenses, allowing for tax relief and increased funding for water resource projects. The District’s current organization and areas of responsibility are described below.
The Governing Board of the District is the agency head. As set forth in Section 373.073, F.S., Board members are appointed by the Governor, subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate, and serve staggered four-year terms. The Board meets on the last Tuesday of every month, unless otherwise announced. The Board establishes policy and provides direction on a wide range of programs, initiatives, and actions, to carry out the District’s duties and responsibilities under Chapter 373, F.S., and several delegated portions of Chapter 403, F.S.
As part of its efforts to manage and protect water resources, the District implements a variety of programs that include, but are not limited to, structural and non-structural flood control, regulatory programs, water conservation, water resource planning and water supply development, associated data collection and analysis efforts, land acquisition, and education. The Governing Board employs an Executive Director who is charged with overseeing the day-to-day activities of the District. The Executive Director is subject to approval by the Governor and confirmation by the Florida Senate. The Governing Board also employs an Inspector General whose duties are described below.
The District carries out its mission, goals, and various duties and responsibilities through the offices, divisions and bureaus described below.
The Governing Board appoints the District’s Executive Director, who directs all District activities. The Florida Senate confirms the Executive Director. In addition to the Executive Director, the Office of the Executive Director, or Executive Team, consists of the following: an Assistant Executive Director, Office of Inspector General, Office of General Counsel, Office of Chief of Staff, and the Division Directors for the District’s Resource Management Division, Regulation Division, Management Services Division and the Operations, Lands and Resource Monitoring Division.
Under the leadership of the Executive Director, the Executive Team is collectively responsible for the overall management and administration of the District and implementation of District policies, rules, plans, studies and programs; for interaction and liaison activities involving citizens, community organizations, the media and governmental entities; and for the representation and advocacy of the District’s interests in legislative, judicial and administrative forums.
The following District operations and services are under the responsibility of the Chief of Staff: Ombudsman Office, Management Services Division, and the Public Affairs Bureau. The following District operations and services are under the responsibility of the Assistant Executive Director: Resource Management Division; Operations, Lands and Resource Monitoring Division; and Regulation Division. The Office of General Counsel reports directly to the Executive Director and Governing Board. The responsibilities of each office, division, bureau or section are explained below.
The Office of Inspector General serves as a primary point for the coordination of activities that promote accountability, effectiveness and efficiency, and efforts to prevent and detect fraud and abuse in the District. The Office of Inspector General is required pursuant to Section 373.079(4)(b), F.S. The Inspector General is hired by the District Governing Board and reports directly to the Governing Board.
The Office of General Counsel (“OGC”) provides professional legal advice, representation, rulemaking services, research, preventative law, and counsel to the District. OGC attorneys and support team work closely together to provide responsive, timely and accurate legal services and assistance to the District, including its Governing Board, Executive Team and its component units. OGC responsibilities include matters relating to the District’s regulatory programs, and other legal matters outside of the regulatory arena, including contracts, procurement, land management and personnel matters.
The District’s Chief of Staff oversees the Management Services Division as well as the Public Affairs Bureau. The Office of Chief of Staff also houses the District’s Ombudsman, who provides assistance to the public by mediating citizen disputes with the District and ensuring citizen’s concerns are appropriately addressed.
The Office of Ombudsman responds to public inquiries about District policies and practices. The office provides information, answers questions and facilitates dispute resolution when issues arise between the public and District staff. The office includes an Ombudsman and a Utility Services Program Manager. The Ombudsman assists the public by responding to inquiries and complaints from, or among, permit applicants and interested parties regarding the District’s policies and practices. This position meets the statutory requirements of Section 373.079(4), F.S. The Utility Services Program Manager is responsible for leading a team of professional staff to work cooperatively with all the water supply utilities in the District to strengthen communication and improve water use efficiency.
The Public Affairs Bureau communicates the District’s mission to the public, Board Members, the Florida Legislature, local governments and the media. The bureau includes the Board & Executive Services, Communications and External Affairs sections.
The Board & Executive Services Section performs management service functions supporting the 13‑member Governing Board, Executive Office and the Public Affairs Bureau. The section also provides video production services for all divisions, and covers switchboard/receptionist functions at District Headquarters.
The Communications Section coordinates all internal communications, develops and maintains the District’s internal and external web sites, provides writing and graphics support to District staff, and advances education and information efforts to develop an environmentally conscious and responsible public. Communications staff seeks to engage individuals and communities in protecting the water resources and to help the public better understand the complex activities of the District.
The External Affairs Section coordinates activities with local governments, state and federal elected officials, and community and civic organizations. This section also manages the District’s media relations efforts and provides strategic public relations counsel to internal audiences. In addition, staff provides collaborative planning services relating to water and natural resource sustainability.
The District’s Management Services Division is under the direction of the Chief of Staff and contains the Finance, General Services, Information Technology and Human Resource & Risk Management Bureaus. This Division is responsible for providing administrative support for the District in the areas of finance, accounting, and contract administration; information resources and records management; administering the benefits program for District staff; assuring that human resource policy and procedures are in compliance with federal and state laws; assisting with preparation of classifications and descriptions of District staff positions, staff recruitment and training, maintaining employee relations; maintaining the District’s computer hardware, software, and telecommunications infrastructure; and handling the District’s insurance, risk management and safety needs, including loss prevention and loss control.
The Finance Bureau is responsible for all financial activities of the District in compliance with federal and state laws, rules and regulations as well as Board policies, District procedures and guidelines, and generally accepted accounting principles; the development and execution of the annual service budget; the procurement of all goods and services; and District inventory control. The bureau includes sections for Accounting, Administration, Budget & Financial Performance and Procurement.
The Information Technology Bureau (“ITB”) provides support for all facets of the District’s information systems. The ITB develops and maintains information systems to support the District’s mission and strategic initiatives and ongoing information technology and business continuity requirements. The bureau includes the Application Systems, Enterprise Infrastructure and Technology Services sections.
The Human Resources & Risk Management Bureau provides administrative support to the District by administering the benefits program for District staff, assuring that human resource policies and procedures are up to date and in compliance with federal and state laws, assisting with preparation of classifications and descriptions of all District staff positions, recruiting new staff, training of staff, and maintaining good employee relations.
The General Services Bureau contains the Document Services and Fleet & Facilities Services sections, and is responsible for managing the District’s documents, vehicles, buildings and other facilities and equipment, as set forth below.
The Document Services Section consists of the following functional areas: Document Imaging, Mail Room, Print Shop, Public Records, Records Retention, Communications Inventory Center, and Technical Library. The section performs all aspects of records management, imaging and retention, as well as acquisition, cataloging and maintenance of a technical library and related research services. The section also provides printing and reproduction services, forms design and control, internal mail distribution, postal courier and priority mail services. Persons seeking to view or obtain copies of District public records will be referred to the Document Services Section.
The Fleet & Facilities Services Section serves District staff by providing procurement, management, and maintenance of the District’s automotive vehicles, heavy and light equipment, boats, and small engine equipment; facility maintenance and repair to District office sites, buildings and their mechanical systems, grounds and facilities infrastructure. The section provides space management support, manages the office furniture systems and assists with Americans with Disabilities Act and life safety compliances, hurricane readiness, the security access and camera surveillance systems, LEED certifications and energy management, recycling and janitorial green-cleaning programs.
The Regulation Division is responsible for administering the District’s Water Use, Well Construction and Environmental Resource Permitting functions. The Regulation Division consists of an Environmental Resource Permit Bureau, Water Use Permit Bureau and Regulatory Support Bureau. The Regulation Division implements District Rule Chapters 40D-1, 40D-2, 40D-3, 40D-4, 40D-8, 40D-21, 40D-22, 40D-40, 40D-80 and 40D-400, and Statewide Environmental Resource Permitting Rule Chapter 62-330, F.A.C.
The Environmental Resource Permit (“ERP”) Bureau is responsible for the review of ERP applications, issuance of ERPs and exemption determinations and related compliance activities. This bureau also processes petitions for formal and informal determinations of wetlands and other surface waters. The bureau’s Environmental Evaluation section also provides environmental review for the Water Use Permitting Program. The ERP bureau includes the Agricultural Regulation Program or “Ag Team” and the Environmental Compliance, Environmental Evaluation, ERP Compliance, ERP Evaluation, and Regulation Strategic and Technical Services sections.
The Environmental Compliance and ERP Compliance sections provide engineering and environmental compliance and enforcement efforts associated with administering the ERP program. Typical work assignments include investigation of complaints, review of asbuilts for transfer of permits to the operation phase, annual review of wetland mitigation monitoring reports, and coordination with field services technicians for field review of reports, complaints and asbuilts. Many compliance issues are able to be resolved directly by section staff; however, some situations require close coordination with the District’s Office of General Counsel for resolution of non-compliant activities and other enforcement matters. Compliance staff members are assigned to each of the District’s four service offices and address matters emanating from the counties associated with each service office. The address and contact information for the District’s service offices can be found in the District Office Information section of this Statement.
The Environmental and ERP Evaluation sections provide engineering, environmental and low-risk evaluations associated with administering the District’s ERP program, to ensure compliance with Chapters 373, 403 and 120, F.S. The District’s ERP program is primarily governed by new rules contained in Chapter 62-330, F.A.C., and the Statewide ERP Applicant’s Handbook, Volumes I and II, adopted by the Department of Environmental Protection for statewide use and effective October 1, 2013. Staff also administers any grandfathered ERP matters that continue to be regulated by District ERP rules contained in Chapters 40D-1, 4, 40, and 400, F.A.C., and the District’s Environmental Resource Permitting Information Manual Part B, Basis of Review. The work performed by these sections includes reviewing ERP applications and requests for exemption determinations, as well as conducting pre-application meetings, field meetings and coordinating activities with local and state agencies. The ERP Bureau includes several specialized teams of staff members with specific expertise unique to the requirements of the associated team. These teams include the Airport Review, Efficient Transportation Decision Making (“ETDM”) and the Mitigation Bank Team.
The Ag Team is responsible for managing the District’s Agricultural Ground and Surface Water Management (“AGSWM”) program. The AGSWM program is a voluntary effort that assists farmers and other agriculturalists in developing conservation farming plans that incorporate best management practices and other environmentally beneficial farming principles. Through this program, participants are able to satisfy ERP exemption requirements and documentation in support of any associated Water Use Permit (“WUP”). The District’s Ag Team works closely with the agricultural community to provide guidance on District permitting requirements and to coordinate meetings and reviews for AGSWM agricultural exemption submittals. Staff also works closely with the District’s WUP and Facilitating Agricultural Resource Management (“FARMS”) program staff, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (“FDACS”), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (“NRCS”).
The Regulation Strategic and Technical Support Section provides environmental review for ERP Mitigation Bank Permits and complex WUPs. The Mitigation Bank Team provides a means of improving permitting processes and communication with the mitigation bank community. This section also provides additional support for special initiatives and high profile projects that need focused environmental and permitting expertise.
The WUP Bureau is responsible for managing water use and well construction regulation throughout the District. The bureau includes the Water Use Permit Evaluation, Water Use Permit Compliance, Well Construction, and Demand Management sections.
The Water Use Permit Evaluation Section administers the review of WUP applications and ensures that applications meet District rules and Florida statutory requirements. WUP applications include new permits, renewals, modifications, transfers, and FDEP site certifications.
The Water Use Permit Compliance Section administers the receipt, recording and review of data and reports required by WUP reporting conditions. The staff’s goal is to gain compliance with the District’s rules and Florida Statutes through cooperative efforts without having to resort to formal enforcement proceedings. When needed, water use permit compliance staff works with the District’s OGC to address compliance. Additional duties include the review and response to public complaints, assisting permittees with routine permit maintenance, including the promotion of online data submittal solutions, and coordination with the WUP Permitting Evaluation Section on an as-needed basis.
The Well Construction Section administers the permitting and compliance of water well construction, repair, and abandonment activities that are performed by qualified licensed water well contractors. Staff seeks to safeguard water quality for groundwater withdrawn from water wells and protect underground aquifers from contamination through proper water well design and durability standards. The section also administers licensing of water well contractors residing or having their place of business within the District.
The Demand Management Section administers the District’s Water Shortage Plan (condition monitoring, temporary water use restrictions and other drought responses) as identified in Rule 40D-21, F.A.C., and Year-Round Water Conservation Measures (permanent non-drought water use restrictions) set forth in Rule 40D-22, F.A.C. This includes staffing a special 800-number hotline to assist the general public and local officials with related questions and concerns, answering public inquiries on watering restrictions, and processing petitions for variance (requests to vary from the exact requirements of those two rules). The program capitalizes on the expertise of WUP Compliance staff, other WUP Bureau members, and an interdisciplinary staff committee spanning several bureaus as needed to accomplish these basic operational functions, associated public and governmental outreach, and statewide coordination on drought mitigation and other water conservation issues.
The Regulatory Support Bureau is responsible for providing assistance to the Regulation Division for permitting activities. The bureau consists of the Business Development, Field Services, Public Records and Regulatory Support Services sections.
The Business Development Section is responsible for translating rule changes and business requirements to the Information Technology Bureau (“ITB”) for Water Management Information System (“WMIS”) implementation, training staff on WMIS and business procedures, providing WMIS and e-Permitting Help Desk support and serving as the regulatory data stewards.
The Field Services Section is responsible for investigating complaints received from the public and monitoring permit-related activities in the field. The section has staff in each of the four District service offices located in Brooksville, Tampa, Bartow and Sarasota.
The Public Records Section is responsible for processing and maintaining all File of Record documents. Staff frequently interacts with the public by providing appointments to review File of Record information, and helps to fulfill public records requests pursuant to Chapter 119, F.S.
The Regulatory Support Services Section is responsible for providing support for the entire Regulation Division. Typical support provided by the bureau includes division budget and financial reporting, meeting and agenda coordination, application processing, mailing correspondence, agency noticing and compliance activity tracking.
The Division of Resource Management is responsible for overseeing the bureaus that plan, develop and implement District water resource management initiatives concerning water supply, flood protection, natural systems and water quality. These initiatives include water supply planning and development of alternative water supplies such as conservation, reuse, and aquifer storage and recovery, as well as the implementation of the District’s springs and Ridge lakes restoration initiatives and watershed management, minimum flows and levels, and the District’s Facilitating Agricultural Resource Management Systems (“FARMS”) and Surface Water Improvement and Management (“SWIM”) programs. The Division of Resource Management contains the District’s Natural Systems & Restoration Bureau, Water Resources Bureau and Project Management Office. The Division of Resource Management implements District Rule Chapters 40D-8, 40D-21, 40D-22, 40D-26 and 40D-80, F.A.C.
The Natural Systems & Restoration Bureau is responsible for water quality and natural system water resource management activities, including the development and implementation of restoration projects to improve resource conditions. The bureau includes the Administration, FARMS, Springs and Environmental Flows (“SEF”) and SWIM sections.
The Administration Section supports the professional staff, administers the operating budget and supports Governing Board-funded projects and programs.
The FARMS Section manages the FARMS Program, which promotes the use of production-scale agricultural best management practices (“BMPs”) that provide a water resource benefit. The FARMS Program was developed by the District and FDACS. The program helps reduce withdrawals from the Upper Floridan aquifer, and improve water quality and natural system functions. FARMS staff also administer the University of Florida/Institute of Food Agricultural Sciences (“UF/IFAS”) research initiative that focuses on water resource issues such as irrigation efficiencies, cold protection savings and other water resource BMPs. Rules governing the FARMS Program are set forth in Chapter 40D-26, F.A.C.
The SEF Section implements the District’s Springs Initiative to restore degraded springs and spring-fed rivers. SEF establishes scientifically-defensible minimum flows and levels (“MFLs”) on streams and estuaries based on a Governing Board adopted priority list. The section also implements the legislatively authorized Florida Department of Transportation Mitigation Program, and develops and implements water quality modeling, data analysis programs and management plans in support of the District’s surface water resource management goals. SEF also develops and manages projects in the District’s Cooperative Funding Initiative with other government entities that focus on restoration and water quality improvement projects. The section provides technical guidance on federal and state-level activities such as the Total Maximum Daily Load Program and establishment of Numeric Nutrient Criteria.
The SWIM Section identifies priority water bodies within the District and implements plans to improve them in accordance with the Surface Water Improvement and Management Act created by the state legislature in 1987. There are currently 10 designated SWIM priority water bodies within the District. Plans implemented for these water bodies include the design and construction of habitat restoration and stormwater treatment projects, which are consistent with the rules established by the Department of Environmental Protection. These projects are funded by basin and Cooperative Funding initiatives. In addition, SWIM has managed projects including resource management plans, water quality studies and models, as well as seagrass and wetland mapping that promotes preservation of natural habitats as identified in SWIM plans. SWIM staff also serves as District representatives and technical advisors to three National Estuary Programs and other boards.
The Water Resources Bureau manages projects associated with regional water supply planning, alternative water supplies, conservation, reclaimed water, floodplain management, and water quality. The bureau includes the Engineering & Watershed Management, Resource Evaluation and Water Supply sections. The Bureau provides technical expertise to support all four of the District’s areas of responsibility. Various programs include water conservation, reclaimed water, alternative water supplies, groundwater modeling, water storage, surface water modeling and flood protection.
The Engineering & Watershed Management Section is responsible for watershed model development, floodplain projections and implementation of BMPs, hydrologic and hydraulic analyses, and surface water resource assessments. The section manages coordination efforts and cooperative projects with federal and state agencies and local governments, using a comprehensive watershed management approach. The section provides engineering oversight for the design and construction of District structural works.
The Resource Evaluation Section conducts hydrologic and hydrogeologic investigations in support of District initiatives such as Water Resource Assessment Projects, Minimum Flows and Levels and Water Use Caution Areas. The section also researches and implements projects to assist in resource recovery.
The Water Supply Section is responsible for water supply and resource development projects. The section coordinates the planning, management and development of projects that provide potable water supply and resource alternatives, promote water conservation and implement beneficial reuse of reclaimed water. Additionally, the section provides economic and population analyses, water use estimations, and demand projections in support of rule development and various District programs, water use permitting and water supply goals.
The Project Management Office is responsible for supporting the Division of Resource Management’s Cooperative Funding program and other District water supply-related initiatives. By evaluating and refining current practices, mapping processes and implementing project management training, the Project Management Office seeks to develop more efficient project management tools for consistent management of the various District projects.
The District’s Operations, Lands and Resource Monitoring Division is responsible for maintaining and managing the District’s flood control and water conservation structures and canal rights-of-way located throughout the District’s 16-county area. This Division also oversees maintenance and management of much of the District-owned conservation lands, as well as the collection, management and stewardship of hydrologic, land use and topographic data. The Division provides construction services for hydrologic restoration projects undertaken on District-owned lands and for the District’s SWIM Program. The District’s Emergency Operations Center is also managed under this Division. The Division contains the District’s Operation & Land Management Bureau and Data Collection Bureau. This Division implements the District’s Land Use Rules in Chapter 40D-9, F.A.C.
The Operations & Land Management Bureau includes the Administration, Field Operations, Land Management, Real Estate Services, Structure Operations and Vegetation Management sections of the District. Bureau staff members who have been trained in the National Incident Management System/Incident Command System (“NIMS/ICS”) protocols are designated as essential emergency response personnel for hurricanes and other severe weather events. When necessary, Bureau staff members provide response and recovery activities in coordination with other water management districts and state and federal emergency operations.
The Administration Section includes the District’s emergency operations program, which updates and exercises Emergency Action Plans for all of the District’s high hazard structures and administers the District’s Emergency Operations Organization. It assures staff is appropriately trained in NIMS/ICS protocols. Additionally, the section provides administrative support for bureau management, planning, budgeting and emergency operations.
The Field Operations Section is responsible for maintenance of District-owned lands, prescribed burn support, maintenance of levees and canals, grounds maintenance at water control structures and data collection sites, and well site preparation and restoration.
The Land Management Section oversees and manages the District’s natural and cultural resources, public use/recreation program and land use activities on District-owned lands. Major functions include natural systems restoration, prescribed burning, forestry management, exotic animal species control, conservation easement compliance, land use and management agreements, and security of District-managed land.
The Real Estate Services Section is responsible for all real property transactions for the District. The section provides real estate support to other bureaus within the District by performing the necessary due diligence, conducting negotiations and developing contractual terms. The section processes documents and instruments related to real estate transactions for acquisitions or dispositions required to facilitate District projects.
The Structure Operations Section inspects, operates, maintains and repairs the District’s 81 water control structures, 18 of which are flood control structures. The remaining structures are for water conservation in lakes throughout the District.
The Vegetative Management Section is responsible for the control of exotic aquatic plant populations on District-maintained flood control systems and lake level gauges, and on rivers and lakes within the District under an agreement with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The section also oversees the control of invasive plant infestations on District-owned lands.
The Data Collection Bureau is responsible for the collection, management and analysis of water resource, geographic information and land surveying data. The Bureau is consists of the following sections.
The Administration Section supports professional and technical staff, administers the operating budget, and supports Governing Board funded projects and programs.
The Mapping & Geographic Information System (“GIS”) Section is responsible for design and maintenance of the District’s GIS database (in conjunction with the Information Technology Bureau), collection and analysis of geospatial data, support of regulatory activities with the expansion of e-permitting, publishing map data on the Internet, and providing technical mapping support for District staff and the citizens of the District.
The District’s Survey Section provides land surveying assistance in support of District land acquisition, mapping, lake level studies, minimum flows and levels, hydrologic and hydrogeologic data collection and various construction activities. The section furnishes survey data in various forms to both District and outside surveying entities.
The Geohydrologic Data Section conducts the District’s Regional Observation and Monitor-well Program (“ROMP”) by performing coring, lithologic logging, water quality and hydraulic testing, well installation oversight and report writing. This section also manages the Quality of Water Improvement Program (“QWIP”) which provides reimbursement to landowners who comply with well plugging requirements of abandoned artesian wells in accordance with the QWIP Funding Assistance Initiative.
The Hydrologic Data Section performs data collection, management, and reporting of rainfall, lake and stream levels, wetland water levels, groundwater levels, and evapotranspiration. The section provides near real-time data required for effective operation of the District’s water conservation and flood-control structures.
The Water Quality Monitoring Program (“WQMP”) performs water quality sampling, data analysis, and reporting for several long-term ground and surface water monitoring efforts designed to assess the District’s water resource quality. The WQMP also conducts water quality data collection for short term, focused investigations and Cooperative Funding Initiative projects.
The Chemistry Laboratory conducts water quality chemistry analyses for District projects and programs. Surface and groundwater monitoring networks, research, and diagnostic studies rely upon data generated from over 40,000 tests conducted annually in the laboratory. Results of these analyses are uploaded to internal and state databases for use by scientists to monitor the health of the District’s water resources.
This section of the District’s Statement of Organization and Operation sets forth the various means by which publications, documents, forms, applications for licenses, permits and other similar certifications or approvals granted by the agency, or other information, may be obtained from the District.
The District issues ERPs, WUPs, Well Construction Permits and Well Construction Contractor Licenses. The District has adopted standardized forms to be used in applying for District-issued permits and licenses. Permit application and license application forms may be obtained from the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/ePermitting as well as from any of the District’s Offices. The District has centralized and consolidated regulatory permitting staff in the Tampa Office. Application reviews and permit issuance now occurs in this office. Upon request, pre-application meetings and other meetings with District permitting or regulatory staff can be scheduled and held at any of the District’s Offices, which are located in Brooksville, Bartow, Sarasota and Tampa.
Pursuant to Section 373.4131, F.S., the Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) and all of the state’s five water management districts have implemented new Statewide Environmental Resource Permitting (“SWERP”) rules and application procedures, effective October 1, 2013. New statewide forms for implementing these rules and application procedures, and an ERP Applicant’s Handbook Volumes I and II have been developed and are available from the District’s ePermitting webpage and District Offices. The District’s ERP application and reporting forms will continue to be available from the ePermitting webpage for “grandfathered” ERP permits and projects.
The District is also participating with DEP and the other water management districts in a statewide consistency effort for water use or consumptive use permitting. This effort is expected to become effective in early 2014. Upon these new rules taking effect, there will also be new statewide application forms that will replace the District’s current WUP application and reporting forms. The new forms will be available from the District’s ePermitting portal and District Offices.
Applications for District-issued ERPs, WUPs, Well Construction Permits and Water Well Contractor Licenses can be submitted through the District’s online ePermitting portal accessible from the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/ePermitting. Permit applications can also be submitted on paper to any of the District’s Offices. Permit review of applications submitted from all areas of the District has been centralized in the Tampa Office (except for delegated well construction permitting). All applications are now evaluated and processed in the Tampa Office Permitting Center.
For well construction permits, applications that are not submitted online can be submitted to any District Office, except for applications for wells in Manatee, Marion and Sarasota counties, which have been delegated authority to administer well construction permits. In Sarasota County and Marion County, well construction permit applications are submitted to the County Health Department. In Manatee County, well construction permit applications are submitted to the County Natural Resources Department. Permit applications may also be submitted online at WaterMatters.org/ePermitting through the District’s ePermitting portal, and the application will be referred to and processed by the appropriate delegated county.
The District has made available to the public for online viewing all permit applications received and permits issued by the District since 2010. The information is accessible through the District’s ePermitting portal available from the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/ePermitting. Information can be accessed from the District’s ePermitting portal without having to register for an account. Persons desiring to know what applications have been recently filed with the District can conduct a search based upon a desired date range. This search can be conducted for one or more counties or section/township/range locations, or can be conducted on a variety of other search criteria.
Persons desiring to be notified of any ERP or WUP applications received from a specific geographic area of the District may sign up to receive such notices. An area of interest can be specified by county or by section, township and range. Persons may request to be notified by email or U.S. mail. To request email noticing of ERP or WUP applications received from a specified geographic area, persons must register for an account through the District’s permit noticing request tool accessible from the ePermitting portal. This tool allows a person to request that the District send an email and link to the application documents for any new application meeting their selected criteria. As part of the registration process, persons desiring individual email notices of applications received will be required to review and accept the District’s Electronic Transaction Agreement. This Agreement specifies the terms and conditions for doing business with the District through electronic means. Persons may also submit written requests for notices of applications received by the District.
The District does not provide notices of receipt of well construction permit applications. These permit applications are typically reviewed and issued the same day or within days of their submittal. Persons interested in viewing well construction applications and permits can conduct a search of well construction permits through the ePermitting portal on the District’s website.
In addition to persons requesting email notices from the District concerning the District’s receipt of permit applications from a specified area, applicants who apply online for District permits or licenses as well as persons submitting permit compliance reports and documents through the District’s ePermitting portal are all required to register for an electronic account with the District. Review and acceptance of the District’s Electronic Transaction Agreement is necessary in order to submit documents to or receive documents from the District’s ePermitting system.
Persons interested in permit applications pending before the District may also inspect such applications online. The District’s practice is to upload into the ePermitting system all documents submitted in support of a permit application, including paper documents, so that all of these documents can be viewed online. Permit application files are accessible from the District’s ePermitting portal and can also be reviewed in any District Office. Written comments or objections concerning a pending permit application may be submitted to the District concerning any permit application, but must be received within 14 days of the date of the notice of application receipt in order to be considered by the District. Submittal of comments or objections concerning a permit application does not constitute a petition for administrative hearing pursuant to Chapter 120, F.S.
Persons desiring to be notified of agency action on a particular permit application can request notification through the District’s permit noticing tool on the ePermitting portal after registering as a new user or signing in as a registered user. Written requests to be notified of agency action concerning a specific permit application may also be submitted to the District’s Regulatory Support Bureau, Regulation Division, 7601 US Highway 301, Tampa, FL 33637-6759; sent by facsimile transfer to the Regulatory Support Bureau at (813) 367-3054; or emailed to: NoticingRequests
ERP, WUP and Well Construction permit applications, permits, confirmation of exemptions and other agency actions and documents relating to permits are available for viewing on the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/ePermitting.
The District’s Land Management Section processes and issues reservations and permits or special use authorizations for campsites on District recreational lands that are open to the public and for day use special activities such as picnic pavilion reservations and equestrian activities. Reservation forms are available on the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/Recreation or from District Offices. The District’s Land Use Rules set forth in Chapter 40D-9, F.A.C., describe the District’s recreational use policies and activities allowable on District lands. Special use authorizations are also granted for certain activities such as hunting, trapping and scuba diving. Reservation, permit and special use applications can be applied for online or submitted to District Offices. Persons visiting District properties for recreation are requested to follow guidelines, founded on the Leave No Trace program, for use of District lands. The guidelines as well as listings and descriptions of all available District recreational sites are presented on the recreation page of the District’s website. For more information concerning reservations and special use permits, contact the Land Management Section at the District’s Brooksville Headquarters, 2379 Broad Street, Brooksville, FL 34604-6899 or by telephone at (352) 796-7211 extension 4470, or email to Recreation
The purpose of the District’s FARMS Program is to expedite the implementation of water resource development and alternative water supply development projects by providing funding assistance for the development of production-scale BMPs for agriculture that will result in reductions in water use and improvements in water quality and to natural systems within the District. The eligibility requirements for participating in the FARMS Program are set forth in Chapter 40D-26, F.A.C. An application form for participating in the FARMS program is available on the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/FARMS at all District Offices. For more information, interested persons can email to FARMS
The District’s Cooperative Funding Initiative allows the District to share costs with local governments for projects that help create sustainable water resources, provide flood protection and enhance conservation efforts. All funding decisions are made by the District Governing Board. Application proposals for shared funding are submitted online. Information about the District’s Cooperative Funding Initiative, application requirements and the schedule for the current fiscal year cycle for application submittals is available on the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/CooperativeFunding.
The District uses a competitive bidding and selection process for the procurement of goods and services to assure fairness and equity to all providers and to make the best use of taxpayer dollars. All persons or business entities desiring to become vendors for the District are required to complete and submit a Vendor Registration Form, available from the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/Business. Additional information concerning the District’s practices and procedures for doing business with the District can be obtained from the District’s website business portal or by contacting the District’s Procurement Office at (352) 796-7211, extension 4132 or by email at Procurement
District Offices are open for business Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for recognized holidays, discretionary holiday closings as directed by the District’s Executive Director and emergency closings. District Office locations are as follows:
Southwest Florida Water Management District
2379 Broad Street
Brooksville, FL 34604-6899
(352) 796-7211 or 1-800-423-1476 (FL only)
TDD: 1-800-231-6301 (FL only)
Bartow Service Office
170 Century Boulevard
Bartow, FL 33830-7700
(863) 534-1448 or 1-800-492-7862 (FL only)
Sarasota Service Office
6750 Fruitville Road
Sarasota, Fl 34240-9711
(941) 377-3722 or 1-800-320-3503 (FL only)
Tampa Service Office
7601 US Highway 301 North
Tampa, FL 33637-6759
(813) 985-7481 or 1-800-836-0797 (FL only)
The following provisions explain how to view and request copies of public information and records maintained by the District. A public records request may be submitted directly to the District’s Document Services/Public Records Section, or by calling (352) 796-7211 or 1-800-423-1476 (FL only), ext. 4053.
The District maintains a variety of reports, plans, studies and other publications that are available to the public. Many documents can be downloaded from the District’s website for free or may be ordered and sent at no cost to residents of the District. For a listing of informational documents available through the District’s library or on-line, visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/Documents.
Pursuant to Section 120.53(1)(a), F.S., the District maintains an up-to-date hierarchical subject-matter index that identifies final orders issued by the District. All final agency orders are grouped by subject matter and listed by order number. The Final Orders Index is maintained by the District’s OGC and can be obtained from that Office at the District’s Brooksville headquarters, 2379 Broad Street, Brooksville, FL 34604-6899 or by calling (352) 796-7211, extension 4659.
The Agency Clerk for the District is the District’s Executive Director. The Office of Executive Director is located at District Headquarters in Brooksville. The telephone number for District Headquarters is (352) 796-7211; 1-800-423-1476 (FL only); TDD No. only: 1-800-231-6103 (FL only). The Agency Clerk’s duties include, but are not limited to, the following:
The Executive Director has appointed a number of Deputy Clerks to whom he has delegated many of the above duties.
The District’s hours of operation at all of its offices are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for District holidays and emergency closings. Legal documents to be filed with the District will be accepted during these hours.
Any legal document required to be filed with the District may be filed by hand delivery, U.S. Mail or other delivery service addressed and sent or delivered to the District Agency Clerk at the District’s Tampa Service Office, 7601 U.S. Highway 301 North, Tampa, FL 33637-6759, or sent by facsimile transmission (fax) to the Agency Clerk at (813) 367-9776 or (813) 367-9778. The District does not accept legal filings by electronic mail.
Any document received by the Agency Clerk after 5 p.m. shall be filed as of 8 a.m. on the next regular business day. If transmission of a facsimile-transmitted document is begun prior to 5 p.m. but not complete until after 5 p.m., the document shall be considered as received after 5 p.m.
Strict application of rule requirements can, at times, lead to unreasonable, unfair or unintended results in particular circumstances. Consequently, Section 120.542, F.S., authorizes the District to grant a variance from or a waiver of requirements set forth in District rules, consistent with the provisions of that statute and Uniform Rules of Procedure Chapter 28-104, F.A.C. Under Section 120.542, F.S., variances or waivers of agency rules will be considered when the person subject to the rule demonstrates that the application of a rule would create a substantial hardship or would violate principles of fairness, and the purpose of the underlying statute will be or has been achieved by other means by the person.
Permit applicants, permittees and other persons who inquire about the possibility of relief from a District rule will be provided with a letter explaining their rights to request a variance or waiver, a copy of Section 120.542, F.S., and a copy of Chapter 28-104, F.A.C. In most instances, persons who wish to seek a variance from or waiver of a District rule requirement must file a written petition for a variance or waiver with the District’s Agency Clerk at the District’s Brooksville headquarters (or Tampa Office, for variances of water shortage or watering restrictions rules). See the Agency Clerk section above concerning requirements for filing petitions for variance or waiver with the Agency Clerk. Petitions filed pursuant to Section 120.542, F.S., require that the petitioner also send a copy of the petition to the Legislature’s Joint Administrative Procedures Committee, Room 680, Pepper Building, 111 W. Madison Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1400.
The District Governing Board has delegated authority to the Executive Director, who may further delegate to staff, responsibility for acting upon petitions or requests for variance or waiver of District rules for the following areas: water use permitting, environmental resource or other surface water (grandfathered) permitting, well construction permitting, permit processing rules, water shortage orders and watering restrictions or other water conservation measures. Petitions for a variance or waiver from permitting rules that are proposed for denial by staff will be referred to the Governing Board for agency action upon the petitioner’s request.
Pursuant to Section 373.414(17), F.S., the variance provisions of Section 403.201, F.S., are applicable to the provisions of Section 373.414, F.S., or any rule adopted pursuant to that section. Section 403.201, F.S., sets forth certain reasons for granting a variance and a process for approving such requests. Pursuant to Section 62-330.395, F.A.C., the District is authorized to grant a variance from the provisions of Section 373.414, F.S., paragraph 62-330.301(1)(e), F.A.C., and Rule 62-330.302, F.A.C. A person seeking a variance under Section 373.414(17), F.S., must demonstrate that any hardship asserted as a basis of the need for a variance is peculiar to the affected property and not self-imposed, and that the grant of a variance will be consistent with the general intent and purpose of Chapter 62-330, F.A.C. Rule 62-330.395, F.A.C., sets forth the information required to be included in such a variance request. Chapter 62-330, F.A.C., can be viewed from the District’s ePermitting portal under Environmental Resource Permitting Rules or from the Department of State’s Florida Administrative Rules site http:/
In addition to the variance and waiver provisions of Section 120.542, F.S., and Chapter 28-104, F.A.C., District Rule 40D-1.1001, F.A.C., provides another process for persons who believe that compliance with the District’s rules for regulating water wells (Chapter 40D-3, F.A.C.) will result in an undue hardship in the construction, repair, modification or abandonment of a specific water well. The District’s Well Construction Regulation Manager has been designated by the Executive Director to act on such requests for variances. To obtain this variance, a written request must be submitted to the Well Construction Regulation Manager at the District’s Tampa Service Office, 7601 US Highway 301 North, Tampa, FL 33637-6759. A variance will be granted if the request is not contrary to accepted practices of public health and sanitary engineering, will not adversely affect the water resource and will be the minimum variation necessary to ameliorate the hardship. For more information, contact the Well Construction Regulation unit by calling (813) 985-7481 or 1-800-836-0797 (FL only), ext. 4305, or by email to the District’s Well Construction Regulation Manager at: DavidN.Arnold
Section 120.542, F.S., allows agencies 90 days to act upon a complete request for a variance or waiver of agency rules. Uniform Rules of Procedure Chapter 28-104, F.A.C., allows petitioners seeking a variance or waiver of agency rules to designate their petitions as an emergency variance or waiver and to have such petitions acted upon promptly. The petition must state the specific facts that make the situation an emergency and that demonstrate how the petitioner will suffer immediate adverse impacts unless the variance or waiver is expeditiously issued. Pursuant to District Rule 40D-1.1003, F.A.C., the District will grant or deny an emergency petition for variance or waiver within 45 days of its receipt by the District.
Chapter 40D-21, F.A.C., sets forth the District’s Water Shortage Plan required under subsection 373.246(1), F.S., and includes water use restrictions and other response mechanisms pursuant to Section 373.175, F.S. The Water Shortage Plan is implemented by declaration of a water shortage order by the Governing Board or a water shortage emergency order by the Executive Director.
To request a variance or a waiver from the District’s Water Shortage rules and orders, a petition for variance or waiver must be filed with the District in accordance with Section 120.542, F.S., and Chapter 28-104, F.A.C. Petitions are to be submitted to the District’s Demand Management Program, located at the Tampa Service Office, 7601 U.S. Highway 301 North, Tampa, FL 33637-6759. Petitions may be submitted in person, by mail or other delivery, or by facsimile transfer (fax) at (813) 987-6746. The District does not accept legal filings by email.
Petitioners may use the Petition for Variance or Waiver Form provided by the District. Unless the petitioner requests otherwise, the petition shall be considered a petition for informal proceeding under Chapter 120, F.S. For more information, contact the District’s Demand Management Program at the Tampa Service Office address, or call the water restrictions hotline at 1-800-848-0499 (FL only) or send an email to: Water.Variances
Chapter 40D-22, F.A.C., sets forth the District’s Year-Round Water Conservation Measures for irrigation and other water uses, and includes regulations assigning specific days of the week and hours of the day for lawn watering and other irrigation uses for all water users. To request a special lawn watering schedule or any other variance or waiver from the District’s Year-Round Water Conservation Measures, a petition for a variance or waiver must be filed with the District in accordance with Section 120.542, F.S., and Chapter 28-104, F.A.C. Petitions are to be submitted to the District’s Demand Management Program, located at the Tampa Service Office, 7601 U.S. Highway 301 North, Tampa, FL 33637-6759. Petitions may be submitted in person, by mail or other delivery, or by facsimile transfer (fax) at (813) 987-6746. The District does not accept legal filings by email.
The same application form that is used to petition for a variance or waiver from the District’s Water Shortage Plan (see above) may be used to petition for variance or waiver from the District’s Year-Round Water Conservation Measures. Relief from provisions of a local government ordinance imposing similar or more stringent measures must be made by filing a petition with such local government. For more information, contact the District’s Demand Management Program at the Tampa Service Office by calling (813) 985-7481 or call the water restrictions hotline at 1-800-848-0499 (FL only), or send an email to: Water.Restrictions@WaterMatters.org.
In accordance with Section 373.62(7), F.S., variances from watering restrictions are available for “smart irrigation” systems equipped with soil moisture sensors and remote adjustment capabilities. A fact sheet concerning the requirements for these variances can be found on the District’s website at WaterMatters.org on the watering restrictions page.
For more information concerning variances or waivers of any District rule requirement, contact the District’s Office of General Counsel at the District’s Brooksville Headquarters, (352) 796-7211 or 1-800-423-1476 (FL only), ext. 4659 or the District’s General Counsel via email at Laura.Donaldson@WaterMatters.org.
The Governing Board has delegated to the Executive Director and designated Regulation Division staff the authority to issue most WUPs and all ERPs and to approve petitions for variance from or waiver of WUP and ERP requirements. The following Individual WUP applications are referred to the Governing Board for action: new individual WUPs issued for water withdrawal quantities of 500,000 gallons per day (gpd) or more on an annual average basis; renewal and formal modification applications involving 10 million gpd or greater water demand; renewals and modification applications involving increased withdrawals or use changes greater than 100,000 gpd or 10 percent, whichever is less; and any permit application for withdrawals for the purpose of environmental augmentation.
If an ERP or WUP application or a petition for variance or waiver from ERP or WUP application requirements is being processed by staff for denial, the applicant or petitioner will be afforded an opportunity to request that the application or petition be referred to the Governing Board for agency action.
For ERP applications that are concurrently reviewed for state-owned lands authorization, the Governing Board has also delegated to staff the authority to take agency action on applications for state-owned lands authorizations. The Governing Board has also delegated to designated staff the authority to take agency action on petitions for formal and informal determinations of wetlands and other surface waters.
The Executive Director is delegated authority for well construction permitting and water well contractor licensing and regulation. The Executive Director has designated the Well Construction Regulation Manager and staff to carry out the various tasks required for administering Chapter 40D-3, F.A.C. The Governing Board has delegated implementation of the District’s well construction permitting program to Manatee, Marion and Sarasota counties for wells located in those counties. Marion County and Sarasota County administer the program through their respective Health Departments, and Manatee County administers well construction permitting through its Natural Resources Department.
The Governing Board has delegated to the Executive Director and designated staff the authority to take final action on petitions for variances or waivers from the District’s Year-Round Water Conservation Measures and Water Shortage Orders issued pursuant to the District’s Water Shortage Plan.
The Governing Board has delegated authority to the Executive Director to approve certain consent orders to resolve routine regulatory violations. The Executive Director is authorized to approve consent orders addressing the failure to submit documents required by environmental resource and water use permits and consent orders involving all well contractor or well construction violations. This delegation also includes the authority to initiate litigation to enforce the terms of any consent order not complied with by the violator. If a case is determined by the Executive Director to be controversial, the consent order will be presented to the Governing Board for approval.
The District’s General Counsel is delegated the authority to take action on a request for an extension of time to file a petition for an administrative hearing challenging a District action. The General Counsel is also delegated authority to act in the following situations: when a timely and sufficient petition is received, to refer the petition to the Division of Administrative Hearings; when a timely insufficient petition is received, to enter an order dismissing the petition without prejudice and granting leave to file an amended petition; and when a petition has been dismissed without prejudice and no amended petition is filed, to enter a final order dismissing the petition with prejudice.
In settlement of civil court cases involving the District, the Executive Director is authorized to approve the making or acceptance of a proposal for settlement in an amount up to and including $25,000 in District funds without specific Governing Board approval. The Governing Board chair, on behalf of the Board, may approve the making or acceptance of a proposal for settlement in an amount greater than $25,000 in District funds if the matter requires immediate action and cannot be delayed to present at the next regularly scheduled Board meeting. In all other situations, the Governing Board must approve a settlement of a civil action prior to filing with the court.
The Governing Board has delegated to the District’s Land Management Manager and designated staff the authority to issue, deny or revoke Special Use Authorizations for activities on District lands, administered pursuant to Chapter 40D-9, F.A.C.
The District does not discriminate on the basis of disability. This nondiscrimination policy involves every aspect of the District’s functions, including access to and participation in the District’s programs and activities. The District designates the Human Resources and Risk Management Bureau Chief as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Compliance Coordinator. Anyone requiring reasonable accommodation as provided for in the ADA should contact the District’s Human Resources and Risk Management Bureau Chief, 2379 Broad Street, Brooksville, Florida 34604-6899; telephone 352-796-7211, ext. 4702 or 1-800-423-1476 (FL only), ext. 4702; TDD 1-800-231-6103 (FL only); or email to ADACoordinator