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SEAWALL CONSTRUCTION and the Department of Environmental Protection

To protect Florida's fragile waterways, the DEP requires an Environmental Resource Permit for construction of certain seawalls. If the seawall you are planning does not meet the criteria below, you will need a permit from the DEP prior to construction.

For further information, contact the DEP at (813) 470-5700.

Caution: Construction of new seawalls is not allowed in wetlands or other surface waters which are State-Owned Submerged Land (SOSL) unless all of the following conditions apply:

a. there is an adequate demonstration of significant erosion at the site,

b. no viable alternative exists,

c. riprap or non-structural shoreline stabilization (such as planting vegetation) is included in the project design if practicable, and

d. structures exist on the upland property that are threatened by erosion.

Information showing that these conditions apply to the proposed seawall must be submitted to the Department for proprietary authorization prior to construction. The State of Florida owns the submerged land up to the mean- or ordinary- high water line of connected waterbodies such rivers, streams, lakes over 140 acres, bays, the Gulf of Mexico, and related waterbodies unless the land has been conferred by deed by the State to another party.

Seawalls Which Do Not Require a Permit from DEP:

1. Seawall construction in an artificially-created waterway which  is not on SOSL and which meets the following:

  •   only the amount of backfill need to level the land behind the seawall or riprap is used. Creation of additional upland behind the seawall or riprap is not allowed.
  •   will not violate existing water quality standards
  •   will not impede navigation
  •   will not create or add to flooding
  •   no construction in an estuary or lagoon unless the project is within an existing man-made canal where legal seawalls already exist along the shoreline of whole or part of the canal.

2. Seawall construction in a wetland or other surface water, other than in an estuary or lagoon, which is not on SOSL and which meets the following:

  •   being built in between and joining at both ends existing, legal seawalls or riprap
  •   no more than 150 feet in length
  •   being built in a continuous and uniform construction line with

  the existing seawalls or riprap

  •   will not violate existing water quality standards
  •   will not impede navigation
  •   will not create or add to flooding.

3. Restoration of an existing seawall which meets the following:

  •   seawall to be replaced is functional (no cracks or breaks which allow water to flow through the wall)
  •   replacement seawall is constructed at its previous location, upland of its previous location, or within one foot waterward of its previous location
  •   no filling done besides that used in the actual restoration of the seawall or riprap
  •   no construction is done without necessary title or leasehold   interest, especially where private and public ownership boundaries have changed as a result of natural events such as deposition, erosion, or exposure of land due to a drop in water levels.

Alternatives to Seawalls:

These alternatives may be just as effective at preventing erosion as seawalls and are better for the environment.

  •  Retaining wall ~ identical to a seawall but all portions of the wall are in the uplands. Retaining walls may be built without a permit from DEP.
  •  Vegetation ~ nature's way of preventing erosion along a shoreline. Plants can be used alone or in combination with other methods. Plants such as bullrush, arrowhead, canna, leather fern, blackrush, or Spartina may be installed directly into the soil or with a fiber mat for added stability. Vegetation may be planted without a permit from DEP.
  •  Riprap slopes ~ loose boulders, rocks, or clean concrete rubble placed along the shoreline. A permit may be required for installation of riprap slopes.

We hope that this information is useful to you. Preserving Florida's environment is every citizen's responsibility. Thank you for your help.

Last updated: July 31, 2013

D.E.P. Southwest District - TAMPA
13051 N. Telecom Parkway Temple Terrace, Fl. 33637 Phone: 813-470-5700
Contact Southwest District 
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