Explanation of Indicator
Florida’s sovereign submerged lands are those public trust lands below navigable water that the Unites States Congress transferred to the state of Florida in 1845 as Florida was granted statehood. Lands below navigable water means all lands within the bo undaries of each of the respective states which are covered by non-tidal waters that are navigable under the laws of the United States. Submerged lands are held in trust for the use and benefit of the citizens of the state, as set forth in the state cons titution. The sale and private use of such lands is allowable, as long as it does not negatively impact the public interest. Florida’s total land area is approximately 37.5 million acres. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), sovereign submerged land comprises an estimated 7.7 million acres. 1
Some of the submerged lands in Florida have been designated as aquatic preserves because of their unique biological, aesthetic, or scientific value. Aquatic preserves receive a higher level of care. The Florida Aquatic Preserve Act of 1975 states that s tate-owned submerged lands that have special value will be permanently placed in preservation status. Florida’s 42 aquatic preserves comprise approximately 2.4 million of the estimated 7.7 million acres of sovereign submerged lands.2
Public and private entities must obtain permission to conduct activities on submerged lands. The most commonly requested uses are the construction of docking facilities for single-family houses, multi-family developments, yacht clubs, marinas, and dredgi ng; and other activities that preempt public access, but occur on sovereign submerged lands. Some types of activities require the applicant to pay a fee. The two primary types of submerged land fees are lease application fees and annual lease fees.3
It is believed that the fee rates do not reflect the true costs of managing these lands. The use of submerged lands can have adverse environmental impacts. The singular effect of one permitted use may be insignificant; however, the cumulative impacts ar e not. Furthermore, some submerged lands are used without the payment of any fees. It is important to keep a record of the number of leases that the state gives out as well as the revenue generated through the use of sovereign submerged lands.4
Information on the number of submerged land leases and revenue generated from leases granted can be obtained from Delmas Barber, Bureau of Submerged Lands Management, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 3900 Commonwealth Boulevard, MS-130, Tal lahassee, Florida 32399-3000, or at (904) 488-2297.
Data can be obtained at no cost.
The information is updated as leases are granted. Separate annual totals of the number of leases given out each year do not exist.
The primary limitation of these data is that separate annual totals of the number of leases given out each year do not exist. Therefore, annual totals cannot be compared and trends cannot be analyzed. However, using 1993 as a base year, every year the t otal can be updated and a trend for the total number of submerged land leases can be established. In addition, it would be helpful to know the acreage of submerged land pertaining to each lease as well as the use of the leases.
In 1993, the total number of submerged land leases was 1,183. In 1995, this number was 1,419, representing an increase of 236 leases (20%). Furthermore, there are an additional 1,280 grandfathered leases that will come under lease by 1998.
The total revenue generated also increased from fiscal year 1990-91 to fiscal year 1992-93 by $144,697. This was increase of 3.5 percent.
It is recommended that the Florida Coastal Management Program work with the Bureau of Submerged Lands Management to begin the collection of data on the acreage and use of each submerged land lease.