Florida Governor Charlie Crist's announcement today -- 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.
"This is a stunning development," said Earthjustice attorney David Guest, who has spent decades working to protect and restore Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. "The scientists have always said that this is one of the most important things we could do to solve the Everglades' problems."
In his press conference today, Governor Crist said US 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.
The flow way is the only solution to the myriad problems facing the Everglades and its restoration. It will:
- Stop fertilizer pollution in Lake Okeechobee and Everglades waters.
- Prevent wasteful discharges of billions of gallons of fresh water to tide during flood years.
- Stop the detrimental effects those discharges have on the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River estuaries.
- Provide a place for water storage during droughts.
- Eliminate the danger of breaches of the Herbert Hoover Dike during hurricanes.
- Provide an alternative to costly and unproven aquifer storage and recovery wells.
- Provide additional wetlands marsh to clean up Lake Okeechobee.
After a century of diking and draining in the name of "progress," the River of Grass will once again be able to flow more naturally, and water quality will be improved.
"Governor Crist has shown real and lasting environmental leadership today," Guest said. "We applaud Charlie Crist for his bold leadership."
David Guest, Earthjustice, (850) 681-0031
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.