Sierra Club members and supporters helped pack the auditorium at the South Florida Water Management District (District) to protest the Governing Board’s failure to act on the contract to purchase 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee. The deal, which expires in October, would provide land to build a reservoir – a critical part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan -- to clean and send water south. A total of forty-five individuals gave public comment, at times highly confrontational, and to robust applause from the audience.
Families and businesses on the coasts can’t endure a repeat of the harmful 2013 discharges from Lake Okeechobee when water levels were too high. Inexplicably, however, acquiring this land in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) that could provide a permanent solution was left off the Governing Board’s agenda.
Sierra Club Regional Organizer Julia Hathaway called on the District to schedule a special meeting to address the issue, saying, “The health of the Indian River and Caloosahatchee River estuaries is at stake. Everglades restoration is at stake. South Florida’s economy is at stake. We have Amendment 1 money. Time is running out.”
In response, the Governing Board defended their inaction by pointing out multiple considerations that they must incorporate into any effort to send water south.
Several board members agreed with James Moran’s characterization that the public just doesn’t understand the constraints that complicate their decision making. Moran also characterized the environmental community as "duplicitous" in indicating otherwise, and advised the crowd to "learn the truth."
Everglades restoration is complicated. It has always been complicated, and it will always be complicated. What is simple is this: we have a once in a lifetime chance to secure vital lands in the EAA that expires in October. This land will never be cheaper than it is now to provide a permanent solution. We already have a contract on the table. We have the money. And actions speak louder than words.
Add your voice by calling the District at 561-686-8800. Tell them that buying the U.S. Sugar land is the most important thing they can do this year: don’t let it slip away while our children pay the price with more lost summers. (To leave a comment after hours, press #4.) You can also send an email via the District’s Contact Form.
For press coverage of the District meeting, please see: