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Following the “Safer at Home” Executive Order issued by Governor DeSantis on April 1, 2020 and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Emergency Final Order responding to COVID-19, three of Florida’s five water management districts (WMDs): the Northwest Florida Water Management District, Southwest Florida Water Management District, and St. Johns River Water Management District, have already issued emergency orders applicable to activities and entities regulated by those WMDs. The remaining two water management districts are expected to soon follow suit; this alert will be updated to add links to all issued Emergency Orders and identify substantive changes, if any. After stating various findings of fact and conclusions of law needed to support the Emergency Orders, certain regulatory deadlines are extended due to the on-going public health emergency and COVID-19 impacts.

Applicable to the WMD’s jurisdiction, the Emergency Orders consistently extend, by 30 days, the time to comply with certain deadlines that occur between April 1, 2020 and the expiration of the WMD Emergency Orders on May 8, 2020. The Emergency Orders’ extended deadlines include:

  1. Conducting monitoring or reporting monitoring results;
  2. Filing an application for an extension of permit duration or renewal of existing permits or other authorizations;
  3. Filing an application for an operation permit under several programs, including Florida’s Environmental Resource Permitting Program (ERP);
  4. Expiration dates for existing permits or other authorizations; and
  5. Obtaining a permit and commencing construction of an initial phase of a system for which a conceptual permit was issued under the ERP program.

The Emergency Order notes it does not provide relief from other governmental requirements or from WMD compliance and enforcement activities.

The Emergency Orders state they take effect immediately upon execution by the Executive Director and expire May 8, 2020, unless modified or extended by further order. The Emergency Orders also note all public meetings or hearings during the term of the EFO will occur by electronic means only. Some of the WMDs have executed separate Emergency Orders addressing procurement and contracting topics while the Northwest Florida WMD consolidated these topics into its single Emergency Order.

If any of these extensions potentially apply to your facility, please consult the Emergency Orders for specific language. The Emergency Orders are available as listed below (click to read each).

Please reach out to Gunster attorney Elizabeth Ross with any questions. Ross is a former South Florida Water Management District attorney who joined Gunster in 2015, working in the firm’s West Palm Beach office where she represents development, utility, and agricultural clients.

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This publication is for general information only. It is not legal advice, and legal counsel should be contacted before any action is taken that might be influenced by this publication.

About Gunster

Gunster, Florida’s law firm for business, provides full-service legal counsel to leading organizations and individuals from its 12 offices statewide. Established in 1925, the firm has expanded, diversified and evolved, but always with a singular focus: Florida and its clients’ stake in it. A magnet for business-savvy attorneys who embrace collaboration for the greatest advantage of clients, Gunster’s growth has not been at the expense of personalized service but because of it. The firm serves clients from its offices in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, Stuart, Tallahassee, Tampa, The Florida Keys, Vero Beach, and its headquarters in West Palm Beach. With nearly 200 attorneys and 200 committed support staff, Gunster is ranked among the National Law Journal’s list of the 500 largest law firms and has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Diverse Law Firms by Law360. More information about its practice areas, offices and insider’s view newsletters is available at www.gunster.com.

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