When the Everglades Reservoir and restoration were originally designed, permitted and funded almost 20 years ago, the first to oppose the reservoir were the environmental groups. Their reasoning was that it would be more of an aid to the sugar industry than it would benefit restoration. In addition, a critical part of the plan was to have land swaps that would allow agricultural interests to swap good farmland for less productive land that could be used for restoration. Again, this was opposed by the environmentalists. This option was later removed from the deal when announced by then-Vice President Al Gore.
Then the environmentalists pushed for the construction of the reservoir to be halted immediately, and the money be used to purchase U.S. Sugar Corp. Their actual goal? Certainly not Everglades restoration. The former head of the Everglades Trust is even quoted in an article stating the “reservoir is useless and too expensive … it is better to use the money to purchase the (U.S. Sugar) land.”
Then the Miccosukee Tribe sued the state to continue with the construction of the reservoir because in their opinion the U.S. Sugar deal was not going to happen, and actual Everglades restoration would be delayed for decades. Clearly, the Miccosukee Tribe is the more intelligent group involved in this issue.
So construction of the reservoir was halted after hundreds of millions of tax dollars were spent. And now we are back to spending more billions for a reservoir that oddly is no longer “useless” or “too expensive.”
Now, along comes state Sen. Joe Negron — newly elected president of the Florida Senate and member of the Gunster law firm, which lists U.S. Sugar as one of its clients. Negron draws two circles on a map of Florida for purchasing land in the name of Everglades restoration. Both circles contain very little U.S. Sugar land. Conflict of interest maybe?
What is the real plan here ? Is this an attempt to distract everyone that the state already purchased U.S. Sugar land? That some oppose the execution of this contract as being too expensive, yet in turn are willing to spend billions on purchasing more land in the Glades region under the guise of Everglades restoration? Really?
The fact that none of our elected officials supporting this in Tallahassee nor any of the environmental groups have engaged the Glades communities in meaningful dialogue to reach a solution makes one thing perfectly clear — it is more about an agenda of killing agriculture south of the lake than it is about stopping the discharges and restoring the Everglades. This issue is too serious and too complicated to simply be reduced to a bumper sticker.
J.P. SASSER, PAHOKEE