Urban Stormwater Program
Florida has implemented a multi-faceted approach to address the issue of NPS pollutants contributed by erosion and sedimentation from construction sites and by the stormwater leaving these developments once construction is completed. Florida has experienced incredible growth since the early 1970s and the states population is projected to increase to over 20,000,000 by the year 2020. Therefore, continued implementation of urban NPS program is essential to minimize the adverse environmental effects associated with the growth and associated changes in land use. Floridas approach includes land use planning and regulation, public education, stormwater/environmental resource permits, technical and financial assistance, and compliance monitoring. However, it should be noted that the primary mechanism to minimize NPS impacts from these activities is through the states growth management program and regulation under Floridas stormwater/environmental permitting program. The current urban stormwater NPS management program involves a partnership between the DEP, the States five water management districts (WMDs), the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), local governments, and the private sector.
Florida Urban Stormwater NPS Management Program-The Beginnings
The foundation for Floridas urban stormwater program was the work done in the mid-1970s as part of the states Section 208 Areawide Water Quality Management Planning efforts. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, numerous investigations were undertaken in Florida to assess the effects of stormwater on water bodies, to characterize stormwater pollutant loadings from different land uses, and to evaluate the performance and cost-effectiveness of various BMPs. These studies demonstrated that stormwater was the primary source of pollutant loading to state surface waters. With the states rapid growth, it was concluded that the states ability to meet the Clean Water Act (CWA) objective of fishable and swimmable waters required implementation of strong stormwater programs.
Using Federal grant funds, Florida drafted regulations to control stormwater in the late 1970s. The first State regulation was implemented by the DER in 1979 as Chapter 17-4.248, F.A.C. Under this rule, the Department based its decision to require a permit upon a determination of the "insignificance" or "significance" of a stormwater discharge. This determination seems reasonable in concept; however, in practice, such a decision is as variable as the personalities involved. What may appear insignificant to the owner of a shopping center may actually be a significant pollutant load into an already overloaded stream.
The DEP intended that the rule would be revised when more detailed information on urban stormwater management became available. About one year after adoption, the DEP began reviewing the results of on going stormwater research and established a stormwater task force with membership from all segments of the regulated and environmental communities. Over a two-year period, a revised stormwater rule, Chapter 17-25, F.A.C., was developed and adopted by the state's Environmental Regulation Commission. It became effective in February 1982. This rule required a stormwater permit for all new stormwater discharges and for modifications to existing discharges if flows or pollutant loading increased.
The new rule was implemented within the framework of the federal CWA. This law establishes two types of regulatory requirements to control pollutant discharges: technology-based effluent limitations (TBELs), that reflect the best controls available considering the technical and economic achievability of those controls, and water quality-based effluent limitations (WQBELs), that reflect the water quality standards and allowable pollutant loadings as set forth in a permit. Florida's tremendous growth and the accompanying creation of tens of thousands of new stormwater discharges, together with a lack of data on specific cause and effect relationships about stormwater impacts to receiving waters, made the WQBEL approach unimplementable.
Instead, the stormwater rule was established as a technology-based program that relies upon the implementation of BMPs that are designed to achieve a specific level of treatment (performance standard). The performance standards are set forth in Chapter 62- 40, F.A.C., the Water Resource Implementation Rule. The performance standard for erosion and sediment control during construction is to retain sediment on-site, with a backstop that no discharge shall violate the states water quality standard for turbidity. Based on performance and cost-effectiveness investigations of urban stormwater BMPs, the performance standard for the stormwater treatment was established as 80% reduction of the average annual loading of total suspended solids for most discharges, or 95% for direct discharges to Outstanding Florida Waters. In addition, the water management districts and local governments have established performance standards to minimize flooding by limiting the post-development stormwater peak discharge rate and, in some cases such as closed basins, the stormwater volume.
This technology-based program was implemented in accordance with EPA guidance on the development of stormwater regulatory programs and the role of water quality criteria. The guidance recognized that BMPs are the primary mechanism for treating stormwater to achieve water quality standards. The guidance also recommends that state programs should include the following:
Proper installation and operation of state approved BMPs should help receiving waters continue to achieve water quality standards. While water quality standards are to be used to measure the ultimate effectiveness of stormwater management programs and BMPs, the EPA recognizes that there should be flexibility in water quality standards to address the variability and intermittent nature of stormwater discharges. If water quality standards are not met, the design criteria for the BMPs should be modified. In some cases, the water quality standards should be reassessed. This latter situation is especially relevant since existing water quality standards were developed for traditional point sources that discharge continually, while stormwater discharges are intermittent and represent relatively short-term, shock loadings to a receiving water. Since most stormwater pollutants become associated with bottom sediments, sediment and biological community standards are more appropriate than traditional water chemistry standards in assessing environmental effects of stormwater discharges.
It is important to note that the use of nonstructural and structural BMPs are not 100% effective in controlling NPS pollution from urban development. Changes in land use and the activities of humans always increase the loading of nonpoint sources of pollution from a watershed. Additionally, the effectiveness of NPS controls depends on a number of factors including, but not limited to, skill in the design and implementation of the BMPs, proper maintenance, staff limitations for review and enforcement, public education, and funding. This is why the technical assistance, practitioner training programs, and public education components of the states urban NPS management program are so essential.
Under the Florida Water Resources Act of 1972, the DEP serves as the umbrella-administering agency for the stormwater management program. It delegated authority to the WMDs whose primary functions historically were related to management of water quantity. Therefore, a second objective in developing the Stormwater Rule was to coordinate the water quality considerations of the DEPs stormwater permits with the water quantity aspects of the WMDs' surface water management permits.
Delegation of the stormwater permitting program allowed for minor adjustments to the design criteria to better reflect regional conditions. Florida is a diverse state with major differences in soils, geology, topography, rainfall, etc., which can directly affect the usability and treatment effectiveness of a BMP. Such variation could be addressed by adoption by the WMDs of slightly different design criteria that were approved by the DEP prior to implementation.
Both the DEPs and WMDs stormwater rules require a new development to implement an approved erosion and sediment control plan during construction and a comprehensive stormwater management plan/system. The stormwater system should be viewed as a "BMP treatment train" in which a number of different BMPs are integrated into a comprehensive system that provides aesthetic and recreational amenities in addition to traditional stormwater management objectives.
Florida Urban Stormwater NPS Management Program-The Present
An effective stormwater management program requires a watershed management team approach involving state, regional and local governments that complement, but do not duplicate each others efforts. To clarify the institutional roles of each member of the watershed management team, Chapters 373 and 403, FS, were revised as part of a 1989 stormwater legislation. This law defined multiple goals and objectives for the stormwater program, and set forth the program's institutional framework, which involves a partnership among the FDEP, the WMDs and local governments. It defined the responsibilities of each entity and addresses the need for the treatment of agricultural runoff by adding a policy in the Agriculture Element of the State Comprehensive Plan to "eliminate the discharge of inadequately treated agricultural wastewater and stormwater." It further promoted the watershed approach being used by the SWIM Program and attempted to integrate stormwater, SWIM, and local comprehensive planning programs. The Water Resource Implementation Rule (formerly State Water Policy), an existing but little used FDEP rule, was established as the primary implementation guidance document for stormwater and all water resources management programs. The law also created the State Stormwater Demonstration Grant Program as an incentive to local governments to implement stormwater utilities and provided a one time appropriation of $2 million for the program.
The state's stormwater management program is outlined in three sections of Chapter 403, F.S.:
In December 1990, the Environmental Regulation Commission adopted a reorganized Chapter 62-40, Florida Administrative Code, to be used as guidance by all entities which implement water resource management programs and regulations. Section 62-40.432, FAC, includes the goals, policies and institutional framework for the state's stormwater management program.
In addition to being the first state in the country to establish a statewide program requiring the treatment of stormwater from new developments, Florida is also unique in having a performance standard for older stormwater systems that were built before the implementation of the Stormwater Rule in 1982. As seen above, Section 62-40.432 (5)(c), F.A.C., states that "the pollutant loading from older stormwater management systems shall be reduced as needed to restore or maintain the beneficial uses of waters." Furthermore, this rule requires the WMDs to establish stormwater pollutant load reduction goals (PLRGs) and adopt them as part of a SWIM plan, other watershed plan, or rule. Stormwater PLRGs are a major component of the Load Allocation part of a TMDL. To date, stormwater PLRGs have been established for Tampa Bay, Lake Thonotosassa, Winter Haven Chain of Lakes, the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, and Lake Apopka.
In 1993, the Florida Legislature, as part of the Environmental Reorganization Act of 1993, modified parts of Chapters 373 and 403, F.S., combining wetland resource permitting and stormwater management permitting into an "Environmental Resource Permit" regulation. DEP and the WMDs, depending upon the type of activity that is permitted, share implementation of this program. Accordingly, most development projects now receive an Environmental Resource Permit that minimizes the wetland impacts, the stormwater quantity impacts, and the stormwater quality impacts of the project. Before a project can be permitted, however, it must be reviewed and approved by the local government which makes sure that the project is consistent with its comprehensive plan and the implementing land development regulations. It is at this time that the nonstructural, land use planning BMPs are incorporated into the project.
Last updated: September 21, 2011
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