Friday, September 12, 2014

Coalition Asks Gov. Scott to Stop Sugar's Plan to Build City in Everglades

September 10, 2014

Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

RE:  Sugar Hill Sector Plan

Dear Governor Scott,

Residents and businesses on the east and west coast suffered economic havoc last summer because polluted water from Lake Okeechobee was dumped into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and estuaries.

The solution has been clear for decades – water from Lake Okeechobee must be moved south to ease the burden on the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers and estuaries and to provide critical water supply to a parched Everglades National Park.

The state of Florida has a contract with U.S. Sugar to purchase 46,800 acres south of Lake Okeechobee that will expire in October 2015, and to purchase more than 100,000 additional acres before the rest of the contract options expire.  These are the very lands required to stop the devastating pumping of massive volumes of water to the estuaries, and flow that water southward instead to restore the central and southern Everglades. 

The South Florida Water Management District publicly stated that the potential acquisition of these lands “represents an unprecedented opportunity to protect and restore the Everglades in a way we never anticipated.’’ (8/14/2008).  The District has developed several alternative plans for these restoration projects.  As the Florida Supreme Court ruled in 2010, the U.S. Sugar purchase "serves the public purpose of conserving and protecting water and water-related resources." 

The opportunity to secure and use these lands for water storage and flow - the only realistic option for real restoration success - is threatened by a land use plan change (The Sugar Hill Sector Plan) recently proposed by Hendry County for over 43,000 acres owned by U.S. Sugar and Hilliard Brothers that would allow up to 18,000 homes and 25 million square feet of commercial and other uses in the very region that is essential to the ability of the state and federal government to resolve the crisis in the estuaries and restore the Everglades.

Approval of this Sector Plan could end any realistic chance of doing this – either directly by allowing the approval of development that would preclude restoration, or indirectly by increasing the speculative market value of the lands needed for restoration.  The proposed Sector Plan appears inconsistent with numerous requirements of Florida’s land use planning law, as a result of its failure to acknowledge state’s restoration efforts, and the suitability of this land for development relative to drainage, water management, water supply and other issues.

We, the 46 undersigned organizations, call upon the leadership of the Governor’s Office to ensure that the Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District fulfill their responsibility under state planning law to formally inform the state’s land planning agency (The Department of Economic Opportunity, DEO) in writing of the facts and circumstances mentioned above related to these lands.  The agencies should provide DEO all available information about these facts, characteristics and considerations, and provide a full and frank explanation about the potential of the proposed Sector Plan to jeopardize the last realistic chance to fully restore the estuaries and the Everglades. We believe this information will compel DEO to formally object to the Sector Plan because of its adverse effect on an issue and facility of statewide importance – the Florida Everglades and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries and the flood control, water supply and economic functions they provide to nearly 8 million Floridians and millions of tourist and visitors. Allowing the Sugar Hill development to proceed would put the Everglades and coastal communities in grave peril.

Now is the time for the state of Florida to fully enforce its legal responsibilities and rights on their behalf before it's too late.


Frank Jackalone
Florida Staff Director
Sierra Club

Marty Baum
Executive Director, Keeper
Indian Riverkeeper

Mark D. Perry
Executive Director
Florida Oceanographic Society

Donna Melzer
Martin County Conservation Alliance

Rae Ann Wessel
Natural Resource Policy Director
Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation

Dr. Leesa Souto
Executive Director
Marine Resources Council

Alan Fritze
Landings Fishing Club - Fort Myers, FL

Birgit P. Miller
Executive Director
Ding Darling Wildlife Society

John McCabe
Ding Darling Wildlife Society

Rodney Smith
Anglers for Conservation

Eric Eikenberg
The Everglades Foundation

Manley Fuller
Florida Wildlife Federation

Franklin Adams
Board Member
Florida Wildlife Federation

Alan Farago
Friends of the Everglades

John Adornato III
Sun Coast Regional Director
National Parks Conservation Association

Roy Rogers
Board Member
1000 Friends of Florida

Charles Pattison
Policy Director
1000 Friends of Florida

Kathleen E. Aterno
Florida Director
Clean Water Action

Eric Draper
Executive Director
Audubon Florida

Michael F. Chenoweth
Florida Division of the Izaak Walton League of America
& Florida Keys Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America

Sara Fain
Executive Director
Everglades Law Center

Laurie Macdonald
Florida Director
Defenders of Wildlife

Bradford Sewell, Esq.
Senior Attorney
Natural Resources Defense Council

Millard McCleary
Executive Program Director
Reef Relief

Jennifer Rubiello
Field Organizer
Environment Florida

Paton White
Audubon of the Everglades

Grant Campbell
Director of Wildlife Policy/ Conservation Chair
South Florida Audubon Society

Alisa Coe
Staff Attorney

Karen Ahlers
Executive Director
Florida Defenders of the Environment

Craig Diamond
Greater Everglades Chair
Sierra Club Florida Chapter

Liz Donley
Save Our Creeks, Inc.

Barbara Falsey
Vice President
Urban Environment League

Patty Whitehead
Responsible Growth Management Coalition of Southwest Florida

John Debus
Treasure Coast Progressive Alliance

Justin Bloom
Exec Director
Suncoast Waterkeeper

Clayton Louis Ferrara
Executive Director
IDEAS for Us

Kenny Hinkle, Jr.

John W. Scott
Clean Water Initiative of Florida

Christopher T. Byrd, Esq.
The Byrd Law Group, P.A.

Karen Fraley
Around the Bend Nature Tours

Linda Young
Executive Director
Florida Clean Water Network

Bob Skinner
Izaak Walton League – Mango Chapter

Pamela Pierce
Izaak Walton League – Cypress Chapter

Marcia Cravens
Sierra Club Calusa Group – Glades, Hendry, Collier and Lee Counties

Drew Martin
Conservation Chair
Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group – Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee Counties

Deborah Longman-Marien
Sierra Club Turtle Coast Group – Brevard and Indian River Counties

Stephen Mahoney
Conservation Chair
Sierra Club Miami Group

Marian Ryan
Conservation Chair
Sierra Club Ancient Islands Group – De Soto, Hardee, Highlands, Polk, and Sumter Counties

Stan Pannaman
Conservation Chair
Sierra Club Broward Group

Linda Jones
Sierra Club Manatee-Sarasota Group

cc:       Jesse Panuccio, Executive Director, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
            Herschel Vinyard, Secretary, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Blake Gillory, Executive Director, South Florida Water Management District