A Historic Moment in Everglades Restoration
A June 24, 2008 announcement by Florida Governor Charlie Crist -- that the natural flow of the Everglades will be restored through the purchase of U.S. Sugar holdings south of Lake Okeechobee -- is the largest step forward in the long history of Everglades restoration.
Six-Year Plan Calls for Phasing Out Sugar Processing
Crist and U.S. Sugar announced a $1.75 billion plan for the state to buy out 185,000 acres of the company's lands and shut down the sugar growing and processing operations there over the next five years.
"This is a stunning development," said Earthjustice attorney David Guest, who has spent decades working to protect and restore Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. "Scientists have always said that this is one of the most important things we could do to solve the Everglades' problems."
"Governor Crist has shown real and lasting environmental leadership today," Guest said. "We applaud Charlie Crist for his bold leadership."
Backpumping Practices Violate Clean Water Act
According to the governor, U.S. Sugar began negotiating to sell the land seven months ago, after the South Florida Water Management District board voted to stop the damaging practice of backpumping dirty farm runoff into Lake Okeechobee. That board vote followed a court win by Earthjustice, representing the Florida Wildlife Federation, when a federal judge ruled that the practice violated the Clean Water Act.
In an article published by the Palm Beach (FL) Post, "Everglades activists say changing the flow would provide wildlife habitat, replenish parched farmland, protect coastal estuaries and put the 'river' back into the River of Grass."
A company spokesperson at U.S. Sugar called the deal "the right thing for the State of Florida," and said it "should allow remaining Everglades Agricultural Area farmers and the Everglades to be sustainable."
Added Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen, "This is a crystal-clear example of smart, successful litigation spurring enormous, lasting change."