Saturday, May 16, 2009

Florida water managers okay phased purchase of US Sugar land

Environment News Service: The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board has approved a revised strategy to acquire vast stretches of land from the United States Sugar Corporation for Everglades restoration. The Board had sought ways to address current economic challenges while preserving the environmental vision of this historic purchase.

With these lands, the state agency is expected to re-establish a natural flow-way from Lake Okeechobee through the River of Grass to Florida Bay. Such a flow-way would preserve the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries from destructive discharges, eliminate hundreds of tons of phosphorous fertilizer pollution and recharge groundwater systems.

The amended agreement, approved last week by U.S. Sugar's Board of Directors, provides for the initial purchase of 73,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee, with options to purchase another 107,000 acres when economic and financial conditions improve.

"Benefits of this acquisition to the Everglades and Florida's coastal estuaries are immense, providing us the opportunity to restore a unique and treasured ecosystem in ways not previously envisioned," said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Eric Buermann on Wednesday after the vote.

Under the approved agreement, which is subject to financing, the district district would take ownership of approximately 73,000 acres of land and its improvements for a purchase price of $536 million, including 33,000 acres of citrus lands and 40,000 acres of sugarcane lands.

An Everglades overlook, shot by Rob Holland from Decatur, GA, USA, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 license

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