Friday, March 13, 2015

Angry Bees confront State Water Managers in West Palm Beach… by gimleteye

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida legislature are pitting a few very wealthy GOP campaign contributors against many property owners who are Republican, too. Funds from Amendment 1 are expected to generate nearly $1 billion this year. Those funds can be bonded, so available funding could be as much as $10 billion per year depending on support from the administration and legislature.

In other words, there is plenty of money to begin the purchases necessary to fix damaged property values on the estuaries, repair the Everglades, and guarantee drinking water supplies for South Florida.

Why is this a controversy at all? Because Florida is controlled by a shadow government, Big Sugar, that will not yield a single cent of profit until every option to protect their prerogatives at the public expense has been exhausted.

Editorial: State must consider sugar land buy in wake of UF report

Posted: 5:49 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Palm Beach Post

Floridians pushing lawmakers to buy U.S. Sugar Corp. land south of Lake Okeechobee got a boost from a University of Florida study last week. But key legislators still seem lukewarm on the land buy, and most support a water policy bill that offers less protection to Florida’s springs, the Everglades and Lake O.

The UF Water Institute’s report, noting Florida has an option to buy the 46,000 acres at market prices until October, said plainly that the state should consider buying the land.

The report also calls for “enormous” increases in storage, for treatment of water both north and south of the lake and for the purchase of lands from other sellers south of the lake.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who set up the Senate committee that ordered and paid for the UF Water Institute report, said he agrees with and supports the land buy recommendation. So do Reps. Larry Lee Jr., D-Port St. Lucie, and MaryLynn Magar, R-Hobe Sound.

Lee wanted to include the land purchase, along with rules to reduce Indian River Lagoon pollution, in the bad water policy bill (HB 7003) the House approved with bipartisan support last week.

The Senate’s rewrite (SB 918) is better, focusing on protection zones for the springs and regulating impacts of septic tanks, storm water and agricultural runoff into the springs. But the bill has many other problems lawmakers need to fix.

Environmentalists statewide and Treasure Coast residents are pushing Negron and the others to make the land buy happen. Martin County residents last week held another “Buy the land, send water south” rally in downtown Stuart. And enviro groups, including the Sierra Club, are planning to protest at today’s South Florida Water Management District meeting.

Dirty lake water continues to pour into the St. Lucie River, with another increase in dumping on Friday. River warriors plan to use people to spell out “Buy the land” in a March 29 march along Martin County beaches.

But several of the lawmakers who support the land buy also support other options, more in line with Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to invest in projects already underway.

That won’t do enough to ease pressure on the east and west coast rivers now being pounded with Lake Okeechobee’s overflow.

With the lake a foot higher than normal for March, no relief is in sight. The lake discharges endanger spawning fish and food supply for birds. As they continue, they kill oysters and seagrass, host toxic algae, and threaten fishing and tourism.

Scott remains mum on the southern land buy, but it’s not in his budget. Sugar industry landowners, meantime, have become reluctant sellers.

Environmental groups, such as the Everglades Foundation and Florida Wildlife Federation continue to support the land purchase.

Money to buy the sugar land is available through Amendment 1, which 4.2 million Florida voters approved last November to buy and restore conservation and recreation lands. The money, raised from allocating a third of document stamp taxes on real estate deals, will amount to about $757 million this year.

Unfortunately, lawmakers have some bad ideas for spending the money — such as on state agency operations and salaries, and on wastewater treatment in Florida’s Keys — not what voters mandated. Instead, money should go for parks, beaches, and protecting springs — and to buy that sugar industry-owned parcel vital to Everglades restoration.

Florida’s Water & Land Legacy, the coalition that worked to win approval of Amendment 1, last week issued a plea for lawmakers to “honor the clear intent of the voters.”

The UF report offers hope to those who want the sugar land buy. Now residents are looking to lawmakers for action to back the promises of support.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

$7,000 per acre for farmland is not market prices. Also, this ignores the fact that to be useful, millions more in engineering and infrastructure will be needed. That's why this is such a bad deal. We need to buy land where we won't have to pump water uphill just to get it to the storage site.