Local permit is issued by the local city, town, or county.
State permit is issued by Department of Environmental Protection.
Federal permit is issued by Army Corp of Engineers.
Being a waterfront property owner, Riparian Law entitles you "to have the right to wharf out to "navigable waters." You have the right, but there could be stipulations. As the author states, "there are many agencies which claim jurisdiction over marine construction projects in Florida."
Imagine discovering, after closing on your waterfront property purchase, that the existing dock or marine structure may NOT have been permitted properly, or that it does not conform to the permitted design. It is possible that you could be forced to demolish a non-permitted or non-conforming structure if a dispute arose with a neighbor or a government agency.
The Corps of Engineers is the Federal agency with authority over construction on the nation’s navigable waters. A Corps permit is required for any construction or dredging project within those navigable waters. Fortunately, the Corps is primarily concerned with larger projects that have – “more than minimal individual and cumulative impacts”.
In order to streamline the permitting process for low impact projects, the Corps has issued General Permits. Most construction permits sought by individual property owners fall under the State Programmatic General Permit Program. This program allows state agencies to approve projects on behalf of the Corps. The program helps avoid duplicate permitting. The agency granted that authority in Florida is the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
DEP programs and regulations are designed to safeguard the state’s natural resources. The agency oversees permitting and compliance activities that protect air and water quality. The agency also manages waste clean-ups.
DEP has three forms of authorization it can grant for marine construction projects:
Exemptions: No permit required if activity meets thresholds defined by FL Statute.
General Permits: For activities that have been determined to have minimal impacts.
Individual Permits: All activities that do not qualify for exemption or general permitting.
DEP is not the only potential hurdle to getting your dock project approved by Florida. The Water Management District is another agency with jurisdiction over marine construction projects in Florida.
The WMD and the DEP implement the Environmental Resource Permit Program jointly. The WMDs are responsible for administration of water resources regionally. The DEP oversees all of the (5) individual Districts: Northwest Florida, Suwannee Florida, St. Johns River, South Florida & Southwest Florida.
The WMD issues permits for projects within wetlands and surface waters. Wetlands typically lie between the body of water and the upland lot as a sort of transition zone. This means that a dock would have to be constructed over the wetlands in order to reach deep water.
The County and City will has their own permitting process to navigate. The Corps and DEP visit only a small percentage of projects to ensure that they conform. However, local governments will normally inspect ALL permitted projects from start to finish. It is at this local level that many property owners find opposition to even seemingly small projects, especially, if they impact wetlands.
Ensuring that ownership of a certain parcel along a body of water does in fact convey Riparian Rights to the owner is a critical step in due diligence. This is especially true when use or construction of a marine structure is of concern.
Wording placed in a deed by a developer could restrict building of docks or other marine structures. HOA bylaws could also govern construction of marine structures.
Part of your Riparian Rights in Florida is the right to an unobstructed view of water. Your neighbor may also possess that same right. Neighbors could take legal action against you if they feel a structure that you built infringes on their Riparian Rights. Common-law holds that you may not exercise your rights at the expense of other’s – including the public’s rights. If you are thinking about building a marine structure, you should consider having neighbors review your plans and acknowledge that they are aware of your intentions before you begin.