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Water-Related News

U.S. District judge nails down decision in wetlands case

TALLAHASSEE — In a case closely watched by business and environmental groups, a U.S. district judge Friday finalized his rejection of a 2020 move by the federal government to shift permitting authority to Florida for projects that affect wetlands.

Judge Randolph Moss issued a 27-page opinion that, as he acknowledged, likely will set the stage for the case to go to an appeals court. The opinion came after a Feb. 15 ruling in which Moss vacated the transfer of permitting authority because he said federal officials had not followed required steps before making the 2020 decision.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has argued that the Feb. 15 ruling could put more than 1,000 permit applications in “regulatory limbo.” But Moss wrote Friday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is prepared to review permits as the legal dispute continues.

The 2020 decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made Florida only the third state, after Michigan and New Jersey, to receive the permitting authority, which is usually held by the Army Corps.