Thursday, November 13, 2008

Florida sugar land deal recut to protect Everglades

Environment News Service: Florida officials have agreed to new terms for a land deal with the largest U.S. producer of cane sugar to increase the availability of water storage and flow to the vast Everglades wetland. The new agreement, subject to approval by the South Florida Water Management District, includes the purchase of more than 180,000 acres from U.S. Sugar Corp. at a price of $1.34 billion. The agreement is a step down from terms announced in June, which included transfer to public ownership of 187,000 acres and all the sugar company's assets, including 200 miles of railroad, a state-of-the-art sugar mill, sugar refinery and citrus processing plant for $1.75 billion.

…The new terms include a lease-back of the land for $50 per acre, for a period covering seven crop cycles. The sugar mill, refinery and citrus processing facilities, railroads, office buildings, equipment and the Gilchrist County citrus nursery will remain the property of U.S. Sugar.

…The 180,000 acres, one of the largest environmental land acquisitions in U.S. history, are needed by the South Florida Water Management District to protect Florida's coastal estuaries and better revive, restore and preserve the Everglades. The land will be used to reestablish a part of the historic connection between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades through a managed system of storage and treatment areas. This is expected to reduce the potential for harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to Florida's coastal rivers and estuaries when lake levels are high.

Environmentalists were pleased with the outcome of negotiations. … "This is just the shot in the arm we need to improve the health of one of America's most treasured, but troubled ecosystems. Floridians on both coasts will be able to say goodbye to damaging freshwater releases that foul up the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, said Everglades Foundation CEO Kirk Fordham.

An alligator in the Everglades, shot by Ryūlóng (竜龍) , Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

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