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How to Build on Wetlands in Florida

How to Build on Wetlands in Florida

Florida is known for its unique and diverse wetland ecosystems, which provide crucial habitats for numerous plant and animal species. These wetlands also play a vital role in flood control, water purification, and providing recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike. However, due to population growth and urbanization, there is a growing need to develop on wetlands in order to meet the demand for residential, commercial, and infrastructure projects. Building on wetlands requires careful planning, adherence to regulations, and consideration of environmental impacts. In this article, we will explore the process of building on wetlands in Florida and provide guidance for developers and homeowners.

Understanding Wetlands in Florida

Wetlands in Florida are defined as areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support vegetation adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. These areas include marshes, swamps, bogs, and wet prairies, among others. Wetlands are protected by state and federal laws due to their ecological importance.

Permitting Process for Building on Wetlands

Before undertaking any development activities on wetlands, it is essential to obtain the necessary permits from regulatory agencies. In Florida, the primary agency responsible for wetland regulation is the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The following steps outline the general process for obtaining permits:

1. Preliminary Assessment: Conduct an initial assessment of the site to identify wetlands and determine the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project. This assessment may require the involvement of environmental consultants or experts.

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2. Jurisdictional Determination: Submit a request to the FDEP for a jurisdictional determination to confirm the presence of wetlands on the site. This process involves submitting maps, photographs, and other relevant documents.

3. Permit Application: Once the jurisdictional determination is obtained, the next step is to apply for a permit. The FDEP offers several types of permits, including Individual Environmental Resource Permits (ERP) and General Environmental Resource Permits (GERP), depending on the size and impact of the project.

4. Mitigation Plan: Develop a mitigation plan that outlines the measures to be taken to offset the ecological impacts of the development. Mitigation may involve restoring or creating wetlands elsewhere to compensate for the loss.

5. Public Notice and Review: The permit application is subject to a public notice and review period, during which interested parties can provide comments or objections. The FDEP reviews these comments before making a final decision on the permit.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Can I build a house on wetlands?
A: Yes, it is possible to build a house on wetlands in Florida, but it requires obtaining the necessary permits from regulatory agencies and implementing mitigation measures to offset the environmental impacts.

Q: Can I drain or fill wetlands to build on them?
A: Generally, draining or filling wetlands is not permitted in Florida unless there are no feasible alternatives and the proposed project meets strict criteria outlined in state and federal regulations.

Q: How long does the permitting process take?
A: The permitting process can vary depending on the complexity and size of the project. It typically takes several months to a year, considering the time required for assessments, public notice periods, and agency reviews.

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Q: What are the potential environmental impacts of building on wetlands?
A: Building on wetlands can disrupt ecosystems, reduce habitat availability for wildlife, increase the risk of flooding, and impair water quality. Mitigation measures aim to minimize these impacts.

Q: Are there any financial incentives for wetland mitigation?
A: Yes, there are financial incentives available for wetland mitigation through programs such as the Wetland Mitigation Banking Program, which allows developers to purchase mitigation credits from existing wetland banks.


Building on wetlands in Florida is a complex process that requires careful planning, adherence to regulations, and consideration of environmental impacts. Developers and homeowners must obtain permits from the FDEP, develop mitigation plans, and undergo public review. By following the proper procedures and implementing mitigation measures, it is possible to develop on wetlands while minimizing ecological damage. Remember, it is essential to consult with environmental experts and regulatory agencies to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

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