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GIS and Technical Support Section

Preliminary Implementation Plan for Collecting and Sharing ERP Site Locations

Introduction and Background

The permit streamlining the State of Florida has experienced within the last 5 years has made it essential that the permitting agencies, the Department Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Water Management Districts (WMDs), be able to share information about what each agency is permitting in the same geographic areas. Similar data sharing with the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) will be necessary once a comprehensive, statewide State Programmatic General Permit (SPGP) is developed. Therefore, in 1992, the DEP and the WMDs initiated informal discussions on the need to share permitting data between agencies. These discussions resulted in a joint grant application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This grant was approved and funded under the Wetlands Protection State Development Grant program. The scope of the project was to develop and implement a mechanism to collect and share an agreed upon set of basic information about environmental resource permitting and compliance and enforcement actions between the WMDs, DEP, the COE and EPA. A pilot project was initiated between the South Florida WMD (SFWMD) to develop the basic framework for sharing the agreed upon set of information. Subsequent EPA and state funding, already available, will be used to extend this data sharing mechanism to the other WMDs.

The ultimate goals of the data sharing effort are to improve permit decisions on a watershed basis; and identify lands suitable for mitigation banking, other restoration activities, or acquisition by sharing a standard set of permitting information. The following discussion will describe the steps taken to date to initiate the data sharing, identify the requirements of a computerized mechanism to reach these goals and describe future directions.


The first phase of the data sharing effort included developing and testing a mechanism to integrate the DEP and the WMDs' computerized permit processing, compliance/enforcement tracking and wetlands database management systems. The initial focus was on developing a mechanism to share tabular data with the SFWMD, with a later goal of sharing the spatial locations of these activities through a Geographic Information System (GIS) interface. All WMDs and DEP participated in the development process to identify the general goals and objectives, determine what basic information was needed to adequately characterize an ERP activity to share, and identify the physical mechanism for sharing this data while noting any limiting factors likely to exist.

The participating agencies agreed that the mechanism designed to share permitting information need to be flexibile to meet the different agencies' hardware and software configurations and security measures, as well as the different emphases on types of data being collected and stored. These hardware/software configurations ranged from Macintosh and DOS operating system environments for PC users to UNIX and VMS operating system environments for workstation users. Additionally, the group determined that is was essential that permit processors, compliance/enforcement staff and management have input into the design of the database and the front-end query application to assure all needs were met for each of these groups. Consensus among all participants identified that the integrated system should track compliance status, the type of agency action and the environmental impacts of permits, consent orders, and enforcement cases.

Additionally, during this initial organizational phase the categories of agency actions and the major classes of information or entities about these categories were identified. The four categories of agency actions identified were (1) current permit information; (2) enforcement information; (3) application information; and (4) general historical permit information, where available.

The major classes of information about these agency actions are: (1) people associated with the activity; (2) location of the activity; (3) project type and/or description of the activity; (4) the type of environmental alterations, type of habitat and acreage affected; (5) conservation easements; (6) responsible staff and agency; (7) issue and expiration dates and 'built indicators' of permits; (8) total acreage of the project ( if permit).

Current Environmental Resource Permitting data will be stored in a central repository and updated on a monthly basis. The technical issues, problems and parameters necessary to design and implement the data sharing initiative were discussed and resulted in agreement that a phased approach to developing and sharing current Environmental Resource Permit information was needed. In addition, a minimal set of administrative and locational information about historical Wetland Resource and MSSW permits would be necessary to assess cumulative and secondary impacts. Although this historical information and activity site locations will be very difficult to compile, the group will work to pull it together as resources and funding become available. Both ideal and currently feasible solutions were incorporated into this phased approach as described below.

Phase I

Given existing resources and data needs Phase 1 focuses on developing a central repository to store tabular data. This central repository would be accessed through an Oracle Forms Query application interface over a network either through a direct connection or in dial-up mode. ORACLE was chosen as the Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) because four of the five WMDs and DEP currently use or are considering migrating to ORACLE as their agency's standard. Oracle was also chosen because it uses a query language format called SQL which is common to many RDBMS. Data are to be translated and downloaded into an agreed-upon format at set intervals from each agency's permit tracking databases and transferred into the common database through an Oracle SQL*Loader control file. Full development of the query application and data transfer protocol will be accomplished through a joint effort between DEP and SFWMD in a pilot project The other WMDs will be actively participating in this pilot project and will be using the file format and download procedures developed to load their data into the central repository as a continuation of this Phase of the data sharing effort.

Phase II

This phase will focus on developing the ability to share site specific geographic locations of permitting activities and associated data through a common GIS interface. The Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) ARC/Info GIS software was tentatively chosen as the common GIS interface. However, licensing and technical issues in networking may limit using ARC/Info as the chosen software. ESRI also has released a software product (ARCVIEW) specifically designed for importing, querying and viewing synthesized ARC/Info data and other geographically formatted data and presenting it through a point-and-click graphical user interface (GUI), which can be customized for specific applications. This software also includes spatial analysis capabilities to perform analyses common to assessing cumulative and secondary impacts and proximity of features to a particular location. The flexibility and ease of use of this software may make it a more appropriate choice for a diverse user community with different computer skills and data formats and sources.

Phase III

In this phase we anticipate implementing the agreed-upon ideal solution to our data sharing needs. The end product will allow participants to access a distributed database, where each agency's tabular and GIS data reside on their systems, in a common, agreed upon format, which can be accessed over a network. Although the distributed database concept is the ideal solution to sharing information, a number of issues concerning network capabilities, technical compatibility and security make it more difficult to implement than the easily secured, centralized repository described in Phase I.

Current Status

Currently, Phase I, the pilot project between the SFWMD and the DEP, is in the final stages of completion. Tabular data from both DEP and SFWMD is housed in the Central Repository at DEP, the technical difficulties associated with translating and transferring data have been resolved and a computer query interface to this stored data is in the final stages of being tested. The SWFWMD is working with the DEP and SFWMD to mimic the data translation and transfer to the Central Repository. NWFWMD and SJRWMD have initiated contracts with the DEP to fund the translation and transfer of their ERP data. SRWMD is transferring their current permit tracking system into Oracle (the relational database management package used for the storage and retrieval of the shared information) and will be designing their translation and transfer upon completion of this task. The COE and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have recently become involved in this data sharing effort with the intent of adding the COE data to the central repository and both obtaining access for the same purpose of reviewing other agency actions in the same geographic area where they have an activity to review.

Initiation of Phase II resulted in recommendations for collecting and storing ERP locations for inclusion in the data share. Based on consensus between all agencies, these recommendations are as follows:

  • The IDEAL sharing of ERP locations was defined to be: polygons for everything, if possible, no minimum mapping unit.
  • The same phased approach to sharing ERP locations as adopted for sharing the tabular data during Phase I of project will be used to share geographic locations for ERP activities. Those agencies (SWFWMD, SJRWMD, SFWMD) collecting information at the IDEAL level will begin to share that information as soon as the mechanism to do so is identified and set into place; agencies (COE, FDEP) collecting only coordinate data would convert those data to a circle, share that information and develop and propose a program strategy to move locational data collection and storage towards the IDEAL level; agencies (SRWMD, SJRWMD) collecting only Section/Township/Range would not share their data but move towards the intermediate and then to the IDEAL stage.
  • An intermediate IDEAL was defined to be: polygons, points and arcs, as appropriate to project.
  • Concerns were expressed that professional environmental permitting staff and other non-permitting staff could misinterpret data captured at different accuracy levels and in different forms but presented in the same data format, especially if the different data were merged into one data layer. Other participants were less concerned about misinterpretation when they were currently working with no representation at all.

Phased Approach to Collecting and Storing Locational Information

A brief discussion on the status of collecting ERP activity locations for each agency follows:

Agency Status
NWFWMD Public Land Survey - Section/Township/Range are currently collected and stored.
SRWMD Public Land Survey - Section/Township/Range are currently collected and stored.

Boundaries for those projects that trip the MSSW threshold. Boundary stored on paper quads. (Under contract to digitize this information.) STR are recorded for those below that threshold.

Conservation easements or off-site mitigation locations are not captured (stores information about off-site mitigation, though).


Entirely digital. Boundaries with no minimum mapping unit, that are tied to other databases. Drafted on quads and digitized. They try to get all of the information in up front, updating as they get better locational information from the applicant. "Place holders" are used to store approximate locations, for later refinement. A "place holder" is a circle created to represent the location.

In the future, they plan to skip the paper quad part, and go directly from the application to the digital most likely using the digital ortho quad as a back drop.

They do not have linear features. If it's a road or pipeline, a polygon is stored.

Offsite locations - Conservation Easements are captured but mitigation sites are not.

SFWMD Digital boundaries and linear features of projects and enforcement cases are collected and stored. Based on permit #, locations can be linked to Oracle database. STR are also stored.

Problem: program staff do not have easy access to data.

They are asking, but not mandating, that applicants supply boundaries in digital format. Some response is coming from the larger consulting firms.

Conservation easements are partially digital, mitigation sites are not stored.

FDEP Lat/Long, and STR as provided by the applicant. Not checked in every case. Reference is made to quad maps, but no digital spatial database is created. Historical point data is stored for permits issued between 1987 and October 1992. Intend to use MapExpert to collect Lat/Long for appropriate type of project. Conservation easements and mitigation information will be captured in the future.
COE Lat/Long and STR. Currently using MapExpert to verify Lat/Longs.


Phased Approach from Current to Ideal

Because the collection and storage of locations for ERP activities is an issue to be resolved at each agency, the consensus was to recommend a timeline for adoption.

Ideal:  All Activity Boundaries stored as polygons.

Intermediate Ideal:  All Activity Boundaries stored as polygons, lines or points as appropriate for activity.

Intermediate:   All Activity Boundaries stored as polygons, lines or points as appropriate for activity.

Minimum:  All Activity locations stored as Section/Township/Range.

Below Minimum:  Incomplete or Missing

The Year 2000 Implementation Plan will require each ERP data share representative to review their agency's collection status and develop an agency action plan which recommends changes necessary to meet the goals for collecting and storing ERP activity locations.

Last updated: September 21, 2011

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