You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Editorial: Next chapter of Everglades restoration history starts now

The slap against former Gov. Charlie Crist was that he never particularly cared for details. He liked big-picture ideas. None was bigger than his grandiose announcement in 2008 that he had brokered a historic deal to buy out all 180,000 acres of U.S. Sugar’s South Florida land for an estimated $1.75 billion, so that it could be returned to the Everglades.

It was a magnificent dream — restore the historic sheet flow of Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades by converting sugar cane fields back to marsh. On Thursday, the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board voted unanimously to drive a stake through any lingering hopes that Crist’s plan would survive Rick Scott’s governorship. The board “irrevocably terminated” its 2015 option to buy an additional 46,800 acres of sugar cane fields at fair-market value.

We grieve the death of this particular dream, alongside the dozens of dedicated activists who showed up for the meeting. But ultimately, we believe that history may show the water district made the right decision, because, in the end, the details really did matter. The purchase apparently would have cost far more than contemplated, accomplished far less, and encumbered the resources needed to more quickly solve the system’s most pressing environmental problems.

As board member James Moran aptly noted, the 2010 revised contract between the district and U.S. Sugar was a “disgrace,” an 80-page boondoggle of poison pills and gotcha clauses, such as one that would force a purchase of the remaining 153,000 acres if the district tried to use eminent domain proceedings.

The U.S. Sugar land couldn’t be bought in pieces, a problem since it was not contiguous, and only parts were ideal for restoration. The biggest and most useful part of the land could be made into a functional reservoir, staff said, but at an ultimate cost of $2.5 billion. If the reservoir was able to hold 4 feet of water, it would accept 84,000 acre feet of water from the lake; and that would help lower the lake a little. But a recent study projected that 1 million acre feet of water storage is needed south of the lake.

Though this chapter has closed, the problems plaguing the River of Grass system remain, and they’re urgent. The Everglades remains parched and choked with invasive species. Lake Okeechobee suffers toxic algae blooms. The oyster beds, sea grasses and aquatic life of the coastal estuaries sicken and die with each floodwater discharge.

The solutions will be multifaceted and complex. Significantly more land is needed north of the lake to clean farm discharges. Significantly more land is needed south of the lake to collect rainwater. But also, serious measures are needed to drop the source of much of the pollution in the Indian River Lagoon — septic tanks and lawn fertilizer.

The water district must make good on board members’ stated commitment to moving with haste to finish projects that have been slowed or stalled since the economic downturn. Scott must make good on his promise to commit $5 billion to Everglades restoration over 20 years. And the federal government must make good on its promise to pay for its share.

Finally, the Florida Legislature must now take seriously the will of the people, 75 percent of whom voted in favor of Amendment 1, the Florida Water Conservation and Land Amendment. That amendment directed the state to spend a third of annual real estate documentary stamp taxes to conservation for the next 20 years.

The need is there. The money should be there, too.

With the U.S. Sugar deal chapter closed, we can hope that the political will may finally be there, too.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

Letters Educate boaters regarding ‘no-wake zones’

Educate boaters re: no-wake zones I wasn’t surprised to read about the injured rower, “Injured teen rower still in hospital,” (Sunday), in The Post. Boaters frequently ignore the “no wake zone” in and around this area. I am not sure if it’s lack of education on the boaters part or lack of police presence. If the...
POINT OF VIEW FPL’s solar progress in step with Audubon’s goals
POINT OF VIEW FPL’s solar progress in step with Audubon’s goals

On a sunny Florida day in South Florida, I watched the American flag rise and fly over hundreds of acres of black solar cells. It was an amazing experience to think that the million panels I was looking at were replacing energy from conventional fuel combustion plants. Yet this solar field feeding directly into the power grid was not using any water...

Editorial: Forget ‘death spiral,’ Obamacare should be fixed, not killed
Editorial: Forget ‘death spiral,’ Obamacare should be fixed, not killed

An inconvenient fact is elbowing its way into the national discussion about Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), to use the formal name, is not “failing,” not “exploding,” not in “death spiral.” It’s not, that is, unless President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress push it over a ledge. Which Trump...
Rampell: Hurting those who help veterans

Government officials often pay lip service to “supporting our troops.” But some of the people who literally do that vital work have just been badly shortchanged. For at least the third time in two years, the National Guard Bureau has awarded a contract for military family services to a lowball bidder. For the third time, that bid was based...
More Stories