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Water & Wetlands Protection

Lake Russell, located within the Nature Conservancy's 12,000 acre Disney Wilderness Preserve, is one of the last remaining undeveloped lakes in central Florida. The lake, connected to Reedy Creek and the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, is part of the headwaters to the Everglades. Disney Wilderness Preserve is a central component to the new Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge which the Nature Conservancy is helping create in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Historic Longleaf Pine savanas over low-lying understories of saw palmetto and wiregrass define much of the landscape, maintained my consistent fire management.

Photograph by Carlton Ward Jr / Carlton Ward Photography / www.CarltonWard.com

Wetlands are a major part of the South Florida Ecosystem. Yet, despite the federal and state “No Net Loss” mandate in the late 1980s, wetland loss continues to be a major issue facing south Florida. ELC attorneys have significant experience as litigators and advocates in advancing wetlands protections. Our practice includes challenging the issuance of major dredge and fill projects under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and environmental resource permits under state law, which could undermine Everglades restoration objectives. ELC also works with its clients and partners in advancing legislative and regulatory improvements to federal and state wetland permitting policies.

Highlights:
  • Florida Wildlife Federation v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, 404 F.Supp.2d 1352 (S.D. Fla. 2005): Successfully challenged the issuance of a dredge and fill permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would have allowed for the construction of a massive bio-technology institute in an area needed for Everglades restoration. Since then, the research facility has been moved to a more suitable area located in close proximity to a large university and urban area. The original site was recently purchased by the South Florida Water Management District for eventual use as a water storage and treatment area for Everglades restoration.
  • Successfully settled a lawsuit against the Federal Highway Administration, resulting in the first comprehensive study of the environmental effects of coastal armoring in south Florida.
  • Crafted stronger wetland protections for the Kissimmee River Valley as part of a settlement agreement in a state administrative proceeding.
  • Currently opposing efforts by the Palm Beach Port District to deepen and expand the Lake Worth Inlet. In light of the planned expansion of the Port of Miami and Port Everglades, this project is unnecessary and will likely have significant impacts to several federally listed species including manatees and sea turtles.
  • Advocating for conservation of resources in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.