Well if the surrounding geometry is static and the scene is large enough, you could build a cubemap or an envmap of it, and then sample it while doing reflection of your ocean waves and floating objects (and apply fresnel as needed) which would be a pretty good approximation I think. Not sure how expensive that would be, how often does the geometry around the water change?
Wouldn't it look "wrong" where the objects intersects the water, such as floating buoys and boats. I read about some techniques doing parallax compensation to improve the quality of cube maps, not sure if that can be used here?
I kind of agree with you and if I was in charge I prob implement something similiar. Just the way the system is setup atm, we submit compiled shaders and I was just looking into solving the problems with assuring a standard for what flags been used when building.