SFWMD Quickie Land Deal Creates Criticism and Spin

The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board’s Nov. 8 vote to approve a lease with sugar companies, whose details were not revealed until the night before the meeting, continues to generate discussion.

The Florida Wildlife Federation and a member of Indian Riverkeeper have filed an administrative challenge to the vote, claiming the district didn’t give proper public notice

FWF’s lawyer Terrel Arline contends the lease will complicate plans for the reservoir south of the lake. Environmentalists contend that project, which has been resisted by the sugar industry and its allies, n is key to restoring some of the natural water flow to Everglades National Park and reducing the harmful algae discharges to the estuaries on the Atlantic and Gulf.

SFMWD quickly responded.

First, the agency criticized FWF for once again delaying Everglades restoration, referring to earlier successful litigation to keep the agency from improperly using money approved for environmental land purchases and management for the project. That is, they’re still angry that the federation made them comply with the state constitution.

Then, SFWMD argued they had to act quickly because of an impending March deadline to renew the lease.

Critics respond that what was really going on was that the board members, who were all appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, wanted to get the deed done before Ron DeSantis, who has been a critic of the sugar industry, takes office in January.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast is calling on DeSantis to remove the board members, arguing the current board’s approach may make it harder to argue for federal funding for Everglades restoration. Mast heads a committee DeSantis has appointed to deal with water policy.

Posted in Group Conservation Issues.