Environmental Groups to press legislators for money to buy land

tcpalm: Florida environmental groups will pressure state legislators in the upcoming special session not only for money to buy land for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee but also for a timetable to get it done.

In a phone news conference arranged by the Everglades Trust, representatives of four environmental groups said they were undeterred by the Legislature’s lack of action in the regular session and the South Florida Water Management District board’s unanimous rejection of an option to buy 46,800 acres south of Lake O from the U.S. Sugar Corp.

Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, said he thinks legislators, Gov. Rick Scott and the sugar industry now have “an appetite to address the problem” of Lake O discharges going to the St. Lucie River and a lack of water going to Everglades National Park.

Draper said environmentalists will press legislators to back a plan by state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, to use Amendment 1 proceeds to generate up to $500 million to buy land to store and move water south of the lake.

They’ll also ask that legislators direct the water district to find an alternative site for the reservoir now that the U.S. Sugar land is off the table.

Tom Van Lent, lead scientist for the Everglades Foundation, said 40,000 to 50,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of the lake is needed.

“There is no one perfect site,” Van Lent said, “but there are lots of viable sites.”


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