The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is revising the Uniform Mitigation Assessment Methodology (UMAM) under chapter 62-345, Florida Administrative Code. UMAM is the statewide method for determining the amount of mitigation needed to offset wetland impacts. It determines the extent of ecological loss that occurs when a wetland is impacted and the amount of ecological gain from mitigation activities.
On June 26, 2013, DEP held its initial rule development workshop. DEP has not yet developed draft rule language, but discussed what appears to be a major overhaul of the UMAM rules to make application of UMAM more objective, more consistent, and more efficient. DEP staff indicated the following issues need to be addressed: (1) the presence of various cognitive biases in implementing the rule; (2) the lack of standardized field protocols; (3) insufficient reference data; and (4) ineffective/insufficient training.
The basic approach DEP is taking will move away from narrative descriptions in the assessment and scoring of systems for quantitative assessments, with empirical observations recorded in response to specific questions about key attributes of a site or ecological system according to specific weights or scores. To achieve this, DEP is proposing (1) collection of a standardized set of field data; (2) quantification of a categorical list of key attributes of a wetland or surface water, the presence or absence of which makes the system of high quality/fully functional; and (3) creation of standardized levels of ecological function—i.e., a location and landscape support, water environment or community structure score of “7” will have a standardized suite of attributes. DEP is also proposing three tiers of reference data for qualitative assessments, with Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) data as the default data, regional modeled data (GIS based) as the middle tier, and geographically proximate physical references as the most reliable reference data. Relative to training, a certified trainer program is contemplated.
Comments DEP has received to date on the rule are being summarized and posted on line. The power point DEP presented at the hearing will also be posted online. The website is here.