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State Clearinghouse Manual

The purpose of this manual is to provide assistance to the state agencies, regional planning councils, water management districts, and local governments which participate in the intergovernmental review process coordinated by the Florida State Clearinghouse (Clearinghouse). The manual may also be useful to applicants seeking federal funding or submitting other projects requiring Clearinghouse review.

Table of Contents

Background of the Clearinghouse
Function of the Clearinghouse
Consistency with Florida's Coastal Management Program(Federal Consistency)
Submission of Projects to the State Clearinghouse
    - Submission Criteria
    - Submission Procedure
    - Exempt Projects
Project Distribution, Review and Comments
    - General Review Procedures
    - State Agency Review Criteria
    - RPC and Local Government Review Criteria
State Clearance Letter
    - Issuance Procedure
    - Conditional Approvals
    - State Process Recommendations
    - Determinations of Inconsistency
Conflict Resolution
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
How to Find and Apply for Federal Funding
Acronym Key
Definitions
Attachments

BACKGROUND OF THE CLEARINGHOUSE

The Intergovernmental Cooperation Act of 1968 resulted in a variety of federal initiatives dealing with the many categorical programs enacted in the 1960s. A centerpiece of the intergovernmental activity was issuance of the federal Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Circular A-95, which served as the initial guiding document for state and federal review of federal grant and loan applications. When the OMB later re-evaluated Circular A-95, it was decided that states should be allowed to develop their own review processes with the assurance that federal agencies would be responsive to state recommendations. Accordingly, on July 14, 1982, President Reagan signed Executive Order 12372 which rescinded Circular A-95 and established general guidelines for the states' review processes (Attachment 1). To confirm Florida's participation in the review process, Governor's Executive Order 83-150 required Florida to review its federal projects and plans under the Intergovernmental Coordination and Review (ICAR) process and established the Florida State Clearinghouse as the state's Single Point-of-Contact (SPOC) for the ICAR process.

The directives in Governor's Executive Order 83-150, however, proved insufficient and not cost-effective. Therefore, the Governor issued Executive Order 93-194 on July 8, 1993, which continued the review of federal applications, as well as any federally funded proposals that could potentially affect Florida's environment.

It soon became apparent that inefficiency and duplication of effort existed between the Clearinghouse ICAR process (in the Governor's Office) and the Coastal Zone Management review process conducted by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). As a result, Executive Order 95-359 (Attachment 2) was issued on September 29, 1995, to establish the state's SPOC as the Florida State Clearinghouse within the DCA. The Office of Policy and Budget (OPB) within the Executive Office of the Governor participates in the Clearinghouse process to ensure that the Governor's role as chief planning officer of the state is preserved. In June 2002, the Clearinghouse was moved to the Department of Environmental Protection.

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FUNCTION OF THE CLEARINGHOUSE

One of the Clearinghouse's primary functions is to serve as the state's single review point for federal assistance applications. This means that by submitting an application to the Clearinghouse, the applicant receives a one-stop review by all appropriate state and regional agencies. At the end of the Clearinghouse review, the applicant will be issued a clearance letter, which informs the applicant of potential concerns or inconsistencies regarding the proposed activity. The clearance letter will also include information on obtaining necessary state permits and will inform the applicant if there is a need to submit additional information for review. Thus, the applicant is able to discover through the Clearinghouse what would otherwise require contact with a multitude of agencies.

The Clearinghouse reviews selected federal assistance applications for compatibility with Presidential Executive Order 12372 and Governor's Executive Order 95-359. The Clearinghouse also reviews projects, programs and documents under the National Environmental Policy Act (environmental assessments, environmental impact statements, etc.), the federal Coastal Zone Management Act (federal consistency review), and the National Historic Preservation Act. Additionally, Section 216.212, Florida Statutes, requires that any state agency requesting federal funds must submit the request to the Clearinghouse before submitting to the federal agency.

All projects are logged into the Clearinghouse's database system and assigned a State Application Identifier (SAI) number, then reviewed in accordance with applicable federal and state laws and procedures. Once the Clearinghouse has issued a clearance letter for a project, the applicant may forward the federal assistance application and a copy of the clearance letter to the federal funding agency. At the Clearinghouse's discretion, certain general projects may be submitted concurrently to the Clearinghouse and the federal funding agency, but this exception does not apply to projects that must undergo consistency review.

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CONSISTENCY WITH FLORIDA'S COASTAL MANAGEMENT PROGRAM (Federal Consistency)

When a proposal or application involves new construction or potential environmental impacts, it is reviewed for federal consistency - compliance with the Florida Coastal Management Program (FCMP). Therefore, applicants should understand the federal consistency review process and how it relates to Clearinghouse review procedures.

The federal Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (CZMA), as amended, encourages coastal states to develop comprehensive management programs to ensure the beneficial use, protection and management of the nation's coastal resources. To encourage the adoption and implementation of the management programs, coastal states whose programs receive approval from the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are empowered to review federal activities within or adjacent to the state's coastal zone to determine whether the activity complies with the requirements of the state's approved management program.

The Florida Coastal Management Program (FCMP) was approved by NOAA in 1981 and consists of a network of twenty-four (24) Florida Statutes administered by eight (8) state agencies and five water management districts. Each FCMP state agency must ensure that federal activities within the state comply with the requirements of the specific FCMP statutes and authorities within its jurisdiction. (For a complete listing of FCMP agencies and statutes, see Attachment 4.) In general, the FCMP includes enforceable policies that ensure the wise use and protection of the state's water, cultural, historic and biological resources; minimize the state's vulnerability to coastal hazards; ensure compliance with the state's growth management laws; protect the state transportation system; and protect the state's proprietary interest as the owner of sovereignty submerged lands.

When the Clearinghouse receives a project requiring federal consistency review (such projects may include federal assistance applications, direct federal activities, and federal licenses and permits), the project is routed to the appropriate state, regional and local reviewers based upon the content and location of the proposed activity. The FCMP state agencies provide comments and recommendations to the Clearinghouse based upon their statutory authorities, and the Department of Environmental Protection makes the state's final consistency determination. The 11 regional planning councils (RPCs) and participating local governments may also provide the Clearinghouse with comments relating to consistency with local comprehensive plans, regional policy plans, and other local land planning issues. Comments and recommendations regarding federal consistency will then be passed along to the applicant in the state clearance letter issued by the Clearinghouse.

For further details regarding the review of projects for consistency with the FCMP, please refer to the Federal Consistency Evaluation Procedures Manual provided by the Department of Environmental Protection.

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SUBMISSION OF PROJECTS TO THE STATE CLEARINGHOUSE

Submission Criteria

There are several ways to determine if a project will require Clearinghouse review. If there is any uncertainty about whether or not a specific application must be submitted to the Clearinghouse, the applicant should contact the Clearinghouse before submitting the project to either the Clearinghouse or the federal funding agency!

Appendix I of the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) lists the catalog numbers and titles of the specific federal assistance programs that are eligible for state review under Presidential Executive Order 12372 (see Attachment 4). However, the State of Florida exempts from review projects submitted by non-state entities (local governments, non-profit agencies, etc.) that are not anticipated to significantly affect the environment. The determination of exemption must be made by the Clearinghouse, so once again, please contact the Clearinghouse if you are attempting to obtain funding under one of the listed federal assistance programs.

Projects requiring review under Governor's Executive Order 95-359 must also be submitted to the Clearinghouse - there are no provisions for exemption under the Order. Projects requiring review under this Order include:

  • Applications for federal assistance that originate from a state agency (including state universities and community colleges).
  • Projects to be funded by federal assistance or that involve direct federal activities that may affect Florida's environment, such as construction, transportation, and water quality-related projects. Such projects must be reviewed for consistency with the FCMP.
  • Projects affecting Florida that are regulated by the following federal and state laws:
    - Section 216.212, Florida Statutes (restrictions on expenditure of federal funds)
    - Florida Coastal Management Program (FCMP)
    - Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA)
    - National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA)
    - National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
    - Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lands Act
  • Revisions or updates to documents for projects previously determined to have a significant effect on Florida's environment. The type of documents subject to review include:
    - Environmental Assessments (EA)
    - Environmental Impact Statements (EIS)
    - Revisions to projects which have previously received a FCMP consistency determination in a state clearance letter
  • In limited circumstances, projects that will occur outside of the State of Florida, but which may affect Florida's environment.
  • Applications for a federal license or permit without an analogous state permit (e.g., U.S. Coast Guard marine event permits, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredge and fill permits located outside of state waters) must also be submitted to the Clearinghouse and are subject to federal consistency review.

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Submission Procedure

To ensure timely review and response, applications should be submitted to the Clearinghouse at the earliest feasible time. For applications that require federal consistency review, that means applicants should plan to submit the application to the Clearinghouse and receive the state clearance letter before forwarding the application and clearance letter to the federal funding agency.

Review of applications will be completed by the Clearinghouse as expeditiously as possible. The standard review period is sixty (60) days, beginning with the date the project was received by the Clearinghouse. If comments are received by all reviewing agencies prior to that time, however, the Clearinghouse will issue the clearance letter as soon as the file is complete. The clearance letter will include the comments of all reviewing agencies, if applicable. If the Clearinghouse will be unable to forward a clearance letter by the 60th day, the applicant will be notified in writing that the clearance letter due date will be extended a maximum of fifteen (15) days, unless otherwise agreed to by the applicant.

It is important to note that attempts to bypass the state review process will, at a minimum, cause delays in funding and may potentially result in disqualification for federal funding! Federal agencies will not process an application that should have been reviewed by the state but was instead forwarded directly to the federal agency. Additionally, if a project requires federal consistency review, the federal agency will not release funds or issue a permit for that project without this state determination, even if funding has been approved and appropriated at the federal level. Projects that do not require federal consistency review may be submitted concurrently to the Clearinghouse or RPC (see following section) and the federal funding agency. The Clearinghouse will notify the applicant if the project is not subject to Clearinghouse review (see following section).

For federal assistance applications, submission of the following information and documentation usually fulfills the needs of reviewers and avoids the submission and review of the complete detailed application (see Attachment 5 for copies of referenced forms). At a minimum, submittals to the Clearinghouse must include:

1. Application for Federal Assistance - Standard Form 424 - Providing this form with the submittal, filled out completely and correctly, is the easiest way to help speed the processing of a project through the Clearinghouse. If this form is missing or incomplete, and Clearinghouse staff are unsure as to which federal agency will be reviewing the project, how much funding is requested, etc., the Clearinghouse will not be able to process the submittal until all information is received. It is very important to include the name of the federal funding agency, the title of the funding program, and the CFDA number.

Budget Information - Standard Form 424A or 424C - This form may be omitted only if it is not included in the application package to be submitted to the federal agency. The budget summary should show both expenditures and income by source (distributed by jurisdiction if a multi-jurisdictional project), and should specifically indicate if any sources involve public funding.

2. Narrative - For general projects, it may only be necessary to submit an executive summary instead of an entire proposal or lengthy technical documents. Applicants should check with the Clearinghouse to determine the documentation that must be submitted. If an executive summary is submitted in lieu of a complete narrative, it should be clear and concise and should contain the information necessary to understand the intent of the application without requiring the review of the complete application document.

3. For Construction Projects:

a. Maps that show the precise site location(s) and surrounding areas (of a quality and scale equivalent to U.S. Geological Service Quad Sheets) and the proposed site plan, including building footprints, if known. Roadways must be legibly labeled. If a project will require new, extended, or modified water and/or sewer lines or service, a map must be provided showing the location of existing and proposed lines.

b. Information regarding local government jurisdiction(s), zoning, water and sewer availability, flood zone and/or susceptibility to flooding, coastal high hazard area, storm water management, hydrology (including the presence of wetlands) and total acreage.

All applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the Clearinghouse prior to submitting an application to ascertain the number of copies needed. Usually, a minimum of two copies of the application should be submitted for general projects, and a minimum of 10 copies (paper or CDs) for all consistency projects; however, depending on the nature and location of an individual project, additional copies may be required. Each copy must include all maps, attachments, and other supporting documents.

Although the Clearinghouse will try to assist applicants if the correct numbers of copies are not submitted, applicants should be aware that the Clearinghouse cannot make additional copies of oversize or permanently bound documents, large maps, or multi-colored maps, photos and diagrams. If sufficient copies cannot be made available to route to all necessary agencies, the applicant will be notified that the project will be considered an incomplete submittal until additional copies are provided. Likewise, failure to provide all necessary information (e.g., location map for a construction project) in the project application will result in the project being considered an incomplete submittal and placed on hold until the necessary information is supplied. If an applicant does not respond to requests for additional copies or information, the project will not be logged by the Clearinghouse and the items submitted will be returned to the applicant unprocessed. If an information deficiency is noted after an application has already been logged and routed to reviewers, and the deficiency is of such significance that the review cannot be completed, the Clearinghouse will notify the applicant that additional information is needed, and the project will be placed on hold until the needed information is received. Please note that the 60-day review timeframe may be restarted once all necessary information is received by the Clearinghouse. If the applicant declines to provide the needed information or does not respond in a timely manner, the project will be withdrawn from Clearinghouse review and the applicant must formally resubmit the project if further consideration is desired.

To submit an application or other documents, send the required number of copies to:

Florida State Clearinghouse
Department of Environmental Protection
3900 Commonwealth Blvd, M.S. 47
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3000
(850) 245-2161

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Exempt Projects

As previously described, certain projects not anticipated to affect Florida's environment are exempt from Clearinghouse review. This determination must be made by the Clearinghouse. Governor's Executive Order 95-359 requires that exempt projects be submitted to the appropriate RPC(s) - the one(s) in which the proposed activity will be located or will have impacts - for regional review (see Attachment 6 for a map of RPCs by county). When an applicant is notified that a proposed federal assistance application is exempt from Clearinghouse review, it is then the responsibility of the applicant to forward one copy of the application and any attachments to each affected RPC. The RPC may contact the applicant directly if additional information is needed for review. If regional or local concerns are subsequently identified by an RPC, it will inform both the applicant and the Clearinghouse, and the RPC may request the Clearinghouse to formally route and review the project.

If the Clearinghouse receives an application for an exempt project, the Clearinghouse will forward the application to the appropriate RPC for regional review. The applicant will be notified in writing that the project was received by the Clearinghouse and forwarded to the RPC following determination of exemption.

If an RPC receives a project which appears to require Clearinghouse review, but it is not accompanied by a Clearinghouse routing sheet with a SAI number, the RPC should contact the Clearinghouse immediately and should not commence review until the Clearinghouse determines the status of the project.

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PROJECT DISTRIBUTION, REVIEW AND COMMENTS

General Review Procedures

Usually within three calendar days after receiving a project, the Clearinghouse will have logged the project into the database, assigned it a SAI number, distributed copies of the projects to selected reviewers, and notified the applicant by postcard of the SAI number and the estimated review period. Eligible reviewers include state agencies, water management districts, regional planning councils, and policy units within the Governor's Office of Policy and Budget (OPB).

In consultation with reviewers, the Clearinghouse determines which programs and projects will generally be sent to individual state agencies and water management districts. Depending on the nature and location, however, an individual project may be sent to some agencies, all of them, or to additional state reviewers. Projects that originate from state agencies or are required to undergo federal consistency review are also distributed to the appropriate OPB policy unit for review. If a reviewing agency did not receive a project from the Clearinghouse but wishes to obtain the project for review or for informational purposes, the Clearinghouse will provide a copy to that agency upon request. The Clearinghouse does not forward applications to federal funding agencies, distribute projects for federal review and comment, or provide copies of applications to other agencies, persons or entities that are not part of the Clearinghouse review process.

Each project copy distributed for state review will have a cover sheet attached that contains the SAI number and the date comments are due to be returned to the Clearinghouse. If a reviewer finds that more information is necessary to review the project, he or she should contact the Clearinghouse immediately; the Clearinghouse will then request the necessary information from the applicant on the reviewer's behalf. Because the Clearinghouse functions as the state's central point for processing and communications, applicants and reviewers must use the Clearinghouse to relay concerns or request information. If an applicant and a reviewer communicate directly during the review process, the Clearinghouse must be notified and provided copies of any materials that have been shared.

The reviewing agencies generally have a 30-day initial response deadline based upon the date the Clearinghouse received the project. If projects are sent out from the Clearinghouse later than three days after receipt, additional time will automatically be added to the reviewers' comment period. The purpose of the short initial deadline is to ensure that projects are reviewed in a timely manner and that any obvious deficiencies or concerns are identified by reviewers as quickly as possible. By the comment due date, the reviewers may choose to comment, request additional time for their review, or not to comment on the project. Generally, a 15-day comment extension will be provided to reviewers upon request. If an agency has not responded by the comment due date, the Clearinghouse will contact the agency for information on the project review status. In unusual circumstances, a reviewing agency may require and request additional time beyond the clearance letter due date to complete a review (e.g., complex issues, applicant submitted additional information, etc.). Requests for additional time do not need to be written, but all comments - including statements of "no comment" - should be written and signed if submitted by mail. If an agency does not provide a response for a project, the Clearinghouse must assume that the agency has no concerns. All communications regarding a project should reference the SAI number and the project title. Please note that reviewers are encouraged to submit their comments electronically via the State Clearinghouse database website. However, project reviews that result in extensive agency comments or a finding of inconsistency require the submittal of an official comment letter. There is no need to return the application package with the agency's comments, as it will only waste postage.

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State Agency Review Criteria

The comment process conducted by state agencies is the most important component of Clearinghouse review. The following review criteria should be utilized to comply with Presidential Executive Order 12372 and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). When reviewing consistency projects, please refer also to the previous section entitled, "Consistency with Florida's Coastal Management Program (Federal Consistency)" for additional review requirements.

  • Is the project compatible with state plans and programs, including the State Comprehensive Plan?
  • Is the project consistent with state laws and regulations?
  • Is the project budgetarily sound and (if originating from a state agency) in accord with the state budget and appropriations?
  • Does the project avoid duplication of other efforts?
  • Does the project protect water quality, historical/archaeological resources, and wildlife, and avoid adverse environmental impacts to the maximum extent practicable?
  • Is the project effective and efficient?

The foregoing criteria represent general guidelines and each review must be tailored to the individual project under consideration. The reviewer should provide comments that can be substantiated and will result, if implemented, in a proposal of greater benefit to the state or region than the original. Value judgments or personal opinions should not be included in an agency's official response. State reviewers should note that if a finding of inconsistency is made, the finding must cite the section of the relevant statute under that agency's authority with which the project is inconsistent, and must identify actions that can be taken to resolve the conflict. Prior to actually issuing a finding of inconsistency, however, the reviewing agency should immediately notify the Clearinghouse of identified problems. In this way, the applicant, the Clearinghouse, and the reviewing agency may be able to work toward a solution and avoid issuance of a state inconsistency letter.

All comments from state reviewing agencies should be forwarded to the Clearinghouse within the time specified (usually 30 days unless a comment extension request has been approved). As previously noted, if comments have not been received by the due date and the reviewing agency has not requested a comment extension from the Clearinghouse, the Clearinghouse will contact the reviewing agency to ascertain the status of the project and whether an extension is needed. If no comments are received from the reviewing agency by the time the clearance letter is drafted, the Clearinghouse must assume the reviewer has no adverse comments and issue the letter based on the information available. Comments received on or after the due date for the clearance letter may not be included in the clearance letter, and may not be legally binding upon the applicant.

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RPC and Local Government Review Criteria

In addition to coordinating state-level agency review, the Clearinghouse distributes proposed consistency projects to the 11 regional planning councils (RPCs) for review against strategic regional policy plans and other regional planning issues. Since June 1996, the RPCs have also functioned as the regional coordinators for local governments that participate in the federal consistency review process and wish to comment on specific consistency projects in their local areas. A local government may choose to participate in the review process by informing the Clearinghouse in writing, under the signature of the mayor or administrator, and designating a single contact person who will function as the coordinator for the local government review (see Attachment 7). Through this process, local governments can inform the state of local concerns about proposed federal activities in their areas, based on local comprehensive plans and other local planning issues, and can request assistance from the state in resolving those concerns.

The Clearinghouse will route projects to the RPCs and participating local governments (generally counties) based upon project location and anticipated impact area. Each local government has twenty-one (21) days from the project routing date to provide comments to the RPC (not the Clearinghouse).

Projects will be sent to the RPCs and local governments with an attached cover sheet that contains the SAI number, project location and description, and the date on which comments are due to the RPC (or, in the case of the RPCs, the date due to the Clearinghouse). The local government cover sheet also specifies the RPC contact person and address to which comments should be sent. If a local government has not responded to the RPC within the 21-day time frame, the RPC must assume that the local government has no comments.

The participation of the RPCs and local governments in the federal consistency review process is advisory in nature, based upon such issues as consistency with the regional plan or the local comprehensive plan, or conflict with other activities. The RPCs and local governments do not make federal consistency determinations. For comments to be usefully considered in the state-level review, regional and local reviewers should try to work within the following general guidelines:

  • Although the RPC may submit draft comments or reports to the Clearinghouse during the review process, final comments should be submitted to the Clearinghouse within 30 days. If the Clearinghouse receives a draft but not a final report, the Clearinghouse will proceed under the assumption that no changes were made subsequent to the draft, and that the conclusions of the draft may be considered the official response of the RPC.
  • When reviewing a Clearinghouse project, the RPC functions as a reviewing agency, not as the regional clearinghouse, for exempt projects. Therefore, under no circumstances should the RPC's response letter state that the project has met state review requirements, or that the applicant is cleared to forward the project to the federal funding agency.

Regional and local reviewers should ask themselves the following questions during review:

  • Is the project compatible with regional or local plans and programs?
  • Does the project foster the goals and policies of the applicable strategic regional policy plan, local comprehensive plan or other plans?
  • Is the project consistent with local laws and regulations?
  • Does the project protect local or regional areas of unique natural beauty, historical/archaeological resources, and wildlife, and avoid adverse environmental impacts to the maximum extent practicable?
  • Is the project effective and efficient?

The foregoing criteria are not meant to be all-inclusive, but are designed to illustrate the types of concerns that should be addressed during project review. Reviewers should attempt to make comments that can be substantiated and will, if implemented, result in a proposal which will be of greater benefit to the state or region than the original proposal.

The types of comments that do not coincide with the intent and purpose of the Clearinghouse review process are ones of value judgment, such as opinions on what priorities should receive federal aid, adequacy of the legislation that fosters the program, and the ability of the funding agency to award money or administer a program fairly. Reviewers should also avoid making vague comments such as, "We would prefer not to have these kinds of projects within our community," or "This project doesn't seem very well thought-out," without providing an explanation of those concerns. When identifying a problem, the reviewer should always provide a preferred alternative or solution, such as: "Although the proposed project site is within a study area for a local rails-to-trails acquisition, the attached map shows several alternate sites with similar characteristics that could be suitable for the proposed activity."

The RPC must provide the Clearinghouse with a completed project report package within 30 days of the project routing date. Correspondence from both the local governments and the RPC should reference the project's SAI number and the project title. All comments received from local governments must be forwarded by the RPC to the Clearinghouse without abridgements or edits, regardless of whether the RPC chooses to incorporate or reference any of the local government comments in its own letter or report.

If the RPC has no comment, the "No Comment" box on the cover sheet should be checked and returned with the project report package. Please do not return the application or other documents with the project report package!

If a local government reviewer needs additional project copies, or wishes to negotiate additional time to respond to the RPC, the RPC representative should be contacted. If the reviewer needs additional information concerning the project, has questions about the Clearinghouse review process, or feels that it should have received notification for a particular project which it did not receive, the Clearinghouse should be contacted. After receiving the project package, the Clearinghouse will be available to discuss comments, the RPC report, or action to be taken by the state, with the RPC or local governments.

Comments from the RPCs and local governments will be included in the state's clearance letter as appropriate. If significant regional or local concerns with a project have been identified, the Clearinghouse will attempt to work with the applicant, the RPC, and the local government to resolve the differences. If an acceptable resolution cannot be reached, the Department will determine whether the nature and severity of the concerns warrants a finding of inconsistency with the FCMP.

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STATE CLEARANCE LETTER

Issuance Procedure

Issuance of the state clearance letter indicates that the proposed project is in accord with state plans, programs, procedures and objectives, and is approved for submission to the federal funding agency. If the project underwent consistency review, the clearance letter will indicate that the allocation of federal funds for the project is consistent with the FCMP.

The Clearinghouse will issue the clearance letter when comments have been received from all necessary reviewers. Each clearance letter will state the criteria used for the review of the project, summarize comments from reviewers and, if relevant, provide determinations of compliance with the local comprehensive plan and consistency with the FCMP. The applicant will be notified of state permitting requirements, if any, and will be provided with information on contacting the appropriate agencies. If significant concerns were identified by reviewers, the applicant will be informed of how those concerns could be resolved.

The reviewers' comments will be included as attachments to the state clearance letter, as appropriate, and copies of the clearance letter will be sent to all reviewers who provided substantive comments. When the clearance letter for a federal assistance application is received, the applicant should attach the clearance letter to the federal application (if it has not yet been sent out) and forward it to the federal funding agency, or forward it to the federal agency with a cover letter requesting that it be attached to the application file (if the application has already been sent). The clearance letter and comments will be forwarded by the Clearinghouse to the federal agency only if the state has issued a finding of inconsistency.

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Conditional Approvals

Some comments are in the form of conditional approvals and are reflected in the clearance letter as such. A conditional approval may result when the overall proposal is acceptable to the reviewer, but some aspect of it is unacceptable or requires further information or negotiation. In such cases, the reviewer can usually approve the project, but conditions the approval on the performance of certain actions by the applicant or the federal agency. Examples of such actions include providing additional information to the reviewer(s), obtaining specified permits or licenses, or conducting more study work, such as archaeological surveys. For certain projects, the permitting process will act as the state's final review; in those cases, the clearance letter will indicate the need for the applicant to coordinate with the appropriate state agencies, such as DEP or the WMD, in order to receive required permits for activities such as dredge and fill, sewer line installation, etc. Conditionally approved projects will not need to be resubmitted for Clearinghouse review. Projects submitted to the Clearinghouse as the first of several planning stages, such as a preliminary Environmental Assessment or Transportation Improvement Plan, will receive conditional approval and must be resubmitted to the Clearinghouse for review when such documents are finalized or at each major planning stage.

Conditional approvals may also result when the Clearinghouse (or reviewers) was not provided with sufficient information to make a determination of federal consistency or other compliance with state law. Examples include a construction proposal where wetlands are present on some portion of the site, but the applicant cannot yet commit to a site plan or building footprint that will prevent wetland impacts, or a neighborhood revitalization block grant that indicates a certain number of houses will receive water and sewer connections, but the specific housing units have not yet been selected.

If an applicant and reviewer cannot reach agreement during the comment period and a conditional approval cannot be issued because of the magnitude of the problem, the Clearinghouse can issue a clearance letter that conditionally approves the project. Depending on the magnitude of the problem, the Clearinghouse, through the Department of Environmental Protection, may issue a letter of inconsistency or a State Process Recommendation, which will be forwarded to the applicant and the reviewer(s), as well as the federal funding agency and the U.S. Department of Commerce (if appropriate).

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State Process Recommendations

A State Process Recommendation (SPR) is a letter issued by the Clearinghouse expressing the state's support for or opposition to a proposed project or activity. Most SPRs are in the form of inconsistency determinations for projects or activities that are inconsistent with the Florida Coastal Management Program. Please note that except in extremely unusual circumstances, the Clearinghouse will not issue SPRs in support of a proposed federal grant application and the Clearinghouse will not recommend approval of one project over another.

The SPR may reflect the views or opinions of all the reviewing agencies agree, or it may represent a particular view with some reviewing agencies differing from that view. The Clearinghouse will make the final determination of which comments to include in the letter.

An SPR can also be developed for a federal program or activity that was not selected for coverage under the state review process. This allows state and local officials to obtain federal agency responsiveness even on programs and activities for which they did not anticipate significant interest. In all instances, the SPR must be transmitted by the Clearinghouse to assure federal agency responsiveness.

When the Clearinghouse forwards an SPR to a federal agency, the federal agency must either:

1. Accept the recommendations;

2. Reach a mutuallyagreeable solution; or

3. Provide the Clearinghouse with a written

explanation of nonaccommodation. Additionally, the federal agency will not initiate the federal action that has drawn a nonaccommodation response for at least ten days after the Clearinghouse receives the explanation.

The Clearinghouse will prepare SPRs in cases where:

1. A project is of such a nature as to require an unresolved negative comment from the state (determination of inconsistency).

2. State affirmation is required for the grant to be funded.

3. A state agency, an RPC, or an applicant requests that a state process recommendation be drafted.

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Determinations of Inconsistency

A determination of federal inconsistency results when a proposed activity conflicts with one or more of the 24 state statutes included in the FCMP and the conflict cannot be resolved by the time the clearance letter must be issued. In that event the Clearinghouse will issue the inconsistency determination, in writing, to the applicant. In fulfillment of the previously described SPR requirements, copies of the determination latter will be sent to the federal funding agency, any reviewing agencies that provided comments, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. The inconsistency/SPR letter will state the specific statute(s) with which the proposed project is in conflict, and list actions which can be taken by the applicant to resolve the inconsistency. If a project or activity is determined to be inconsistent with the FCMP, the applicant and/or federal agency is prohibited from conducting the project or activity.

If the applicant believes the determination of inconsistency with the FCMP is incorrect, it may challenge the determination by filing a notice of appeal with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, under 15 CFR 930, subpart H, within 30 days of receiving the state's objection. The notice of appeal must be accompanied by a statement in support of the appellant's position, along with supporting data and information. A copy of the notice of appeal and accompanying documents must also be filed with the Clearinghouse, commenting state reviewers, and any federal agencies involved. 

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CONFLICT RESOLUTION

During the review process, conflicting views may arise between an applicant and one or more reviewing agencies. To avoid issuance of conditional approvals or determinations of inconsistency, the Clearinghouse is the lead agency for initiating and/or facilitating mediation during the review period.

The Clearinghouse will become involved in mediation under the following circumstances:

  • If an applicant or reviewer requests Clearinghouse involvement when there has been no suitable resolution to an application deficiency or need for additional information.
  • If the Clearinghouse receives a project which it deems controversial. An RPC may also notify the Clearinghouse of a problem it is having with either a local applicant or a state agency, or if receives a project which it deems controversial.
  • If there is a potential negative comment or finding of inconsistency from a reviewer.

In each case, the Clearinghouse will work with the affected parties in as timely a manner as possible to meet review deadlines. If a state agency's comments are in conflict with another state agency's comments or a project is in conflict with a locally originated project, conflict resolution will take place as follows:

1. State Clearinghouse - Reviewer and applicant will attempt to resolve the conflict(s). The Clearinghouse, acting through the Department of Environmental Protection, will become involved as indicated above.

2. Director, Office of Policy and Budget, Executive Office of the Governor (OPB) - If the conflict cannot be resolved at the Clearinghouse level, the Clearinghouse will bring the problem to the attention of the Director of OPB and will initiate mediation of the conflict. An agency head may also initiate mediation of the conflict or contact the Clearinghouse for assistance. The Clearinghouse will be a party to any discussions and proposed resolutions.

3. Governor - In those cases where no resolution has taken place between the agency head(s) and the Director of OPB, the Governor will be asked to make the final decision.

 

In those cases where conflict resolution of state problems involves federal mediators, the federal requirements supersede state procedures. The state participant must notify the Clearinghouse of such ongoing negotiations during all phases of the proceedings. In conflict situations that involve a local applicant or reviewer and a state agency, the procedures described above apply.

If the problem involves an RPC and a local applicant, the RPC will use its own procedures and mediation rules to attempt to resolve the conflict. This includes staff-level discussions, playing a mediator role between an applicant and a community objector, or providing a hearing during an RPC meeting. If such attempts fail, the RPC may notify the Clearinghouse of the need for state-level mediation. In those cases, the Clearinghouse will become involved and will assume the role of negotiator.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Question: "Why do I have to send so many copies of my project application to the Clearinghouse, and why does it take so long to get a clearance letter?"

Answer: The Clearinghouse bases its response to the applicant upon comments received from a multitude of state, regional and local reviewing agencies. Each agency is given a reasonable deadline to review the application and forward comments to the Clearinghouse. To meet federal response deadlines (60 days for most projects), it is necessary to circulate the application to all reviewers at the same time. Although the Clearinghouse can sometimes make additional copies if necessary, it cannot reproduce extremely large documents, permanently bound documents, colored or oversize maps or charts, or other materials that cannot be handled by a standard photocopier. The basic prerequisite for an efficient turnaround is a complete application with the right number of copies!

Question: "Can I ask the Clearinghouse to expedite the review process for my project?"

Answer: If your project is under a very tight time deadline for state clearance, or of an emergency nature, the applicant should notify the Clearinghouse of the circumstances when submitting the project. Depending upon the nature of the project and the time frame involved, the Clearinghouse can assist the applicant by getting the project to the reviewers as quickly as possible and establishing shorter review deadlines. The applicant may also have the option to submit concurrently to the Clearinghouse and the federal agency. However, applicants should be aware that although the Clearinghouse can request expedited reviewer, it cannot guarantee it, and therefore early preparation is always recommended to ensure a timely state response. For consistency projects, a clearance letter cannot be issued without the signoff of the appropriate reviewing agencies.

Question: "Can I send my application to the Clearinghouse at the same time that I submit it to the federal agency, or do I have to receive Clearinghouse approval first?"

Answer: For maximum assurance that a project complies with state law and can receive federal funding, the application should be submitted to the Clearinghouse sufficiently in advance to receive a clearance letter prior to submitting it to the federal agency. This is especially important for projects that involve construction or potential environmental impacts - without the state's consistency determination, the federal agency cannot authorize activities or release funds to the applicant! For projects solely involving activities such as research or service-based activities, purchase of equipment, or hiring personnel (i.e., general projects), the applicant can often submit to both the state and the federal agency at the same time if  the applicant indicates on the application that it has also been sent to the Clearinghouse for review. This informs the federal agency that the applicant has not bypassed the Clearinghouse process, and that the state's response will be forthcoming. Always check with your federal funder to ascertain the specific requirements for your grant! For both consistency and general projects, it is the applicant's responsibility to forward the clearance letter to the federal agency to complete the applicant's file.
 

Question: "If I know that one of the reviewing agencies has concerns about my application, can I deal directly with that agency, instead of the Clearinghouse, to resolve the concerns?"

Answer: The Clearinghouse exercises the state's central review and response authority in the federal application process; therefore, the Clearinghouse must be a party to any correspondence or negotiations regarding concerns which may affect the outcome of the clearance letter. The Clearinghouse serves as a facilitator or mediator when conflicts arise between the applicant and reviewing agencies, and will provide the final determination of federal consistency if applicable. Applicants should not contact reviewing agencies directly without prior Clearinghouse contact and mutual agreement on issues to be resolved.

Question: "If I change something on my application or modify my project after I've submitted it to the Clearinghouse, do I need to resubmit my application or give the Clearinghouse additional information?"

Answer: To be safe, the applicant should contact the Clearinghouse and describe the nature of the proposed modification. If the change will be relatively minor, such as a slight increase in requested funds (without corresponding changes in project activity) or a change in the date of program completion, the applicant may only need to send a written explanation of the changes to the Clearinghouse for inclusion in the project record. If the change is moderately significant, such as an expanded scope of work or inclusion of new alternatives, that information should be submitted to the Clearinghouse for review as a revised project. If major changes are proposed, depending on the circumstances, the information may be re-reviewed as a revised project or the Clearinghouse may require that the original submittal be withdrawn and the revised proposal be submitted for review. If an applicant proposes significant changes to a federal grant application after it has been submitted for funding, the Clearinghouse MUST be informed; otherwise the applicant will jeopardize the project's funding eligibility. Conducting federally assisted activities without state review is a violation of state law.

Question: "Can I call the Clearinghouse to check on the status of applications?"

Answer: Applicants are welcome to contact the Clearinghouse as needed to make sure that their projects have been received, to ascertain deadlines, or to find out which reviewing agencies have returned comments. The Clearinghouse, however, does not have information on the federal agency review status and cannot give out information concerning other current projects.

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HOW TO FIND AND APPLY FOR FEDERAL FUNDING

One of the most common question asked of Clearinghouse staff is "How can I find federal money to start up my small business, enhance the community's after-school program, get housing rehabilitation assistance...? etc." Although the Clearinghouse functions as the state central review point for federal assistance applications, it is not directly involved with the federal application process and does not maintain current information on upcoming federal deadlines or specific grant requirements. The following suggestions are offered to those who are in search of federal assistance but are unsure of where to begin. The listed sites are not maintained by the Clearinghouse and are subject to change without notice.

Federal grant information is provided in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA), which contains a listing of all current federal grant and loan programs, with general information on the type of assistance available under each program, use restrictions, eligibility requirements, the application and award process, and contact offices and names for each type of grant. The Federal Register, published daily, announces newly authorized and/or funded programs, as well as annual application deadlines and award amounts for continuing programs. Announcements also appear in the Commerce Business Daily.

The CFDA (https://www.cfda.gov) can be accessed online as can the archives of the Federal Register (http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/index.html). The federal government has also established a new website, Grants.gov (http://www.grants.gov), to assist the public in locating and applying for federal grants.

Applicants may also consult the Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC) at http://publications.usa.gov/USAPubs.php, which is a general information service for people who have questions about federal agencies or services and programs, but do not know where to look for the answers. The FCIC will answer the inquirer's questions directly or perform the necessary research to locate and refer the inquirer to the expert best able to help.

For information on grants which have previously been awarded, you may wish to consult the USA spending website at http://www.usaspending.gov/.

For helpful tips on how to write an effective grant proposal, see Attachment 8, "How to Write a Grant Proposal." This information is taken directly from the CFDA and contains useful information for inexperienced grant applicants.

If you have any questions regarding the function of the Clearinghouse, the state review process, or requirements of state law, please contact the Clearinghouse at (850) 245-2161, or access the Clearinghouse web site at http://www.dep.state.fl.us/secretary/oip

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ACRONYM KEY

CFDA - Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance
CZMA - Coastal Zone Management Act
FCMP - Florida Coastal Management Program
ICAR - Intergovernmental Coordination and Review
OPB - Office of Policy and Budget
RPC - Regional Planning Council
SAI - State Application Identifier Number
SPOC - Single Point of Contact
SPR - State Process Recommendation
WMD - Water Management District

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DEFINITIONS

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) - A comprehensive government-wide list of federal programs, projects, services, and activities that provide assistance or benefits to the public. It contains financial and other assistance programs administered by departments and establishments of the federal government. The primary purpose of the catalog is to assist users in identifying programs that meet specific objectives of the potential applicant, and to provide general information on federal assistance programs.

Clearance Letter - After all reviewing agencies have commented on an application or document, the Clearinghouse responds to the applicant with a clearance letter informing the applicant of conditions which must be met, permitting requirements, or other concerns. If the issues of concern are sufficiently serious that approval of the project would be in violation of state law, policies, plans or procedures, the Clearinghouse will issue a determination of inconsistency as part of a State Process Recommendation.

Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended (CZMA) - Requires each federal agency activity within or outside the coastal zone that affects any land or water or natural resource of the coastal zone shall be carried out in a manner that is consistent - to the maximum extent practicable - with the enforceable policies of the Florida Coastal Management Program.

Federal Consistency Review - The State Clearinghouse requires a federal consistency review of projects that may or will have an impact on Florida's environmental resources. The reviewers are required to comment on whether the project is consistent or inconsistent with the laws contained in the Florida Coastal Management Program.

Florida Coastal Management Program (FCMP) - The coastal protection program adopted by the state and approved by the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The FCMP is comprised of 24 Florida Statutes that contain enforceable policies by which federal activities affecting Florida's coastal resources are planned, reviewed and implemented to conform to the requirements of the CZMA.

General Project - A project submitted to the Clearinghouse that is not related to the environment (such as educational program funding) but originates from state agencies or requires statewide rather than regional review.

Governor's Executive Order 95-359 - Continued the requirement of intergovernmental coordination and review of federal applications and projects in Florida. Established the State Clearinghouse within the Department of Environmental Protection as the state's Single Point-of-Contact and continued the role of the state's regional planning councils as regional clearinghouses. The order requires the state to review all federal applications submitted by state agencies and all federal applications and projects that have a potential environmental impact, but exempts all other federal applications from State Clearinghouse review.

Intergovernmental Coordination and Review (ICAR) - The process utilized by the State Clearinghouse to ensure that federal applications are reviewed by the appropriate state, regional and local-level agencies. The purpose of the ICAR process is to ensure that Florida's goals, policies, plans and objectives are being met and that environmental and historical resources are protected.

Nonaccommodation - A determination by a federal granting agency to not accommodate the project recommendations prepared by the State Clearinghouse on behalf of the state. In such event, the federal agency must explain in writing why the state recommendations were not acceptable.

Presidential Executive Order 12372 - Allows states to develop their own processes for review of federal applications and direct federal activities. The order requires federal agencies to utilize the state review process to determine official recommendations of state and local officials and make efforts to accommodate concerns.

Regional Planning Councils (RPC) - Created in each of the planning districts of the state (currently 11) to act in an advisory capacity to the constituent local governments in regional, county, metropolitan, and municipal planning matters. They are responsible for the local coordination and review of federal assistance applications and direct federal development projects within their respective planning districts.

State Process Recommendation (SPR) - Expresses the views of state and local officials participating in the state intergovernmental coordination and review process. Most often, a SPR is issued when a project or proposal is found to be inconsistent with state law, policies, plans or procedures. The SPR can be a consensus opinion with which all commenting parties agree, or it may represent a particular view with various commenting parties differing from that view. The SPR is forwarded to the applicant and the federal agency.

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ATTACHMENTS (Please contact the State Clearinghouse for copies of the following materials)

1. Presidential Executive Order 12372
2. Governor's Executive Order 95-359
3. Florida Coastal Management Program (FCMP) List of Agencies and Statutes
4. Appendix 1 of the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance
5. Standard Form 424
6. Map of Regional Planning Councils by County
7. Invitation to Local Governments to Participate in Federal Consistency Review
8. "How to Write a Grant Proposal" (from the CFDA catalog)

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Last updated: June 15, 2012

  Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 3900 Commonwealth Boulevard M.S. 47  Tallahassee, Florida 32399
850-245-2118 (phone) / 850-245-2128 (fax) 
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