6184015031_52bb1094fd_zExecutive Order 16-155

On June 29, 2016, the Governor issued Executive Order Number 16-155, declaring a State of Emergency throughout Martin and St. Lucie Counties due to the increased number of algae blooms from the Lake Okeechobee discharges. In this Executive Order, the Governor states:

[t]he Obama Administration unreasonably failed to budget for adequate maintenance and speedy rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike, resulting in frequent discharges of harmful water from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and estuaries.”

The Governor explained that the release of these waters has caused an increase in algae blooms that have been dominated by Mycrosystis, an algae that can produce harmful toxins.

Executive Order 16-156

Given that the emergency declaration initially only applied to the east coast, concerned lawmakers and residents throughout Southwest Florida urged the Governor to extend the breadth of his State of Emergency to mitigate the spread of blue green algae blooms in our local waterways. Accordingly, on June 30th, 2016, the Governor issued Executive Order Number 16-156, which expanded the State of Emergency for Lake Okeechobee algae blooms by adding Lee and Palm Beach Counties. Unless it is further extended, this State of Emergency is in effect for 60 days.

You May Be Entitled to a Permit Extension Under Florida Law

As explained in a number of my earlier blog posts, Section 252.363, Florida Statutes, provides that certain qualifying permits and authorizations can obtain extensions following a declared State of Emergency. Under this law, such permits can be extended for the amount of time the emergency declaration was in effect, plus an additional six months.

In order to obtain an extension under the law, all applicants are required to submit a written request to the authorizing agency within 90 days after the State of Emergency has expired.

So What’s the Scoop?

Although approvals of the above-referenced permit extensions are ministerial and have been routinely granted by local governments and the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), time is of the essence when determining eligibility. Applicants who act diligently under the State of Emergency will have the opportunity to extend their projects for a total of 8 months (6 months and 60 days).

If you are a permit holder in Lee County and believe that you may benefit from an extension under this provision of the Florida Statutes, please do not hesitate to contact me at austin.turner@henlaw.com.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore under Flickr Creative Commons License