Everglades Restoration Breakthrough
U.S. Sugar, the nation’s largest producer of cane sugar, has announced that it is leaving the Everglades, selling nearly 300 square miles of land to the state of Florida for Everglades restoration. This solves two major problems at once, says Stuart Appelbaum, in charge of the project for the Army Corps of Engineers. It reconnects Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades and halts the flow of pollution from the lake to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. Activists say that changing the flow will provide wildlife habitat, replenish parcel farmland, protect coastal estuaries, and put the ‘river’ back into the River of Grass. It’s the largest step forward yet, and a needed jumpstart in the stalled $10-billion Everglades restoration project.
Florida Governor Charlie Crist gets credit for the quantum leap forward in proposing the deal. His brainstorm came in response to the company’s plea of impending financial ruin after Earthjustice and the South Florida Water Management District determined to stop its corporate practice of backpumping dirty farm runoff into Lake Okeechobee. The $1.75 billion buyout plan for 187,000 acres will see the sugar growing and processing operations shut down over the next five years.