final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the South Florida Water Management District; L.T. Case
E. Warner, Dean A. Morande, Matthew Z. Leopold, and Michael
D. Sloan of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, P.A., West Palm
Beach, for appellant.
Peoples, Assistant General Counsel of Department of
Transportation, Tallahassee, for appellee Florida Department
Roeder Martin, West Palm Beach, for appellee South Florida
Water Management District.
Bluefield Ranch Mitigation Bank Trust ("Bluefield")
sought to challenge the South Florida Water Management
District's ("District") issuance of a permit to
the Florida Department of Transportation ("FDOT")
for a road-widening project. The District dismissed
Bluefield's petition for a formal administrative
proceeding ("petition") with prejudice, determining
Bluefield lacked standing to challenge the permit. The
District's decision was based on its determination that
the only injury specifically alleged by Bluefield was
economic. We disagree, and conclude that Bluefield has
demonstrated standing beyond mere economic injury. We thus
reverse the District's dismissal order and remand for a
formal administrative proceeding on Bluefield's petition.
District is an executive branch agency that has the
responsibility to conserve, protect, manage, and control
water resources within its geographic boundaries.
See §§ 373.016, .036, Fla. Stat. (2016).
Bluefield is a privately-owned mitigation bank, established
pursuant to section 373.4136, Florida Statutes, for the
purpose of operating and managing the Bluefield Ranch
Mitigation Bank. Mitigation banking is the practice in which
a mitigation bank sells "credits" in exchange for
conducting environmental enhancement and preservation to
offset unavoidable adverse impacts to the wetlands and to
other property within its mitigation service area caused by
development or construction projects requiring a permit from
the District. See §§ 373.403(19),
.4136(1), Fla. Stat.
time of receiving a mitigation bank permit, a mitigation bank
is granted a certain number of mitigation credits. §
373.4136(4), Fla. Stat. Each credit is a unit of measure
representing the increase in ecological value to offset
adverse impacts within the bank's service area.
See § 373.403(20), (21), Fla. Stat. A
mitigation bank sells its credits to the permittee of the
proposed project, who applies them to meet its mitigation
requirements. Bluefield is a permitted mitigation bank, with
property situated within the service area and watershed of
the project at issue. Mitigation service areas can overlap,
and mitigation service areas for two or more mitigation banks
may be approved for a regional watershed. § 373.4136(6),
applied for a permit, which the District issued, for its
project to widen a section of State Road 710/Beeline Highway.
Per the permit, FDOT was required to purchase mitigation
credits as a means of offsetting the environmental impact to
the wetlands from the road-widening project. FDOT purchased
some of the required mitigation credits from Bluefield, but
most of the mitigation was to be provided by Dupuis Reserve
petition challenging the use of mitigation credits from
Dupuis, Bluefield argued that Dupuis did not meet certain
statutory criteria to be considered for mitigation on the
project. Therefore, FDOT was required to consider Bluefield
for the mitigation credits that would otherwise be provided
by Dupuis. The petition asserted that Bluefield has standing
to challenge FDOT's permit because, as a mitigation bank,
it has a substantial interest in the enforcement of statutory
compliance for mitigation within its service area and within
the same watershed as the project. That "substantial
interest," the petition contends, is to prevent
environmental harm caused by unlawful mitigation. Bluefield
further argued that it had standing because, as a landowner
in the affected area, it has a substantial interest in the
protection of the environment and the continued restoration,
enhancement, and preservation of wetlands within its
watershed and service area.
District dismissed Bluefield's petition with prejudice,
concluding that Bluefield failed to (and could not) allege
facts demonstrating it had substantial interests (other than
purely economic interests) that would be affected by the
issuance of the permit. On appeal, Bluefield requests a