“The report, commissioned by the Florida Legislature, confirms much of what the Everglades Foundation has been saying for years – more storage is needed south of Lake Okeechobee, storage south of the lake is more effective, and the state has before it the significant opportunity to purchase 46,800 acres of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).
“The report further validates the Foundation’s concerns with CS/HB 7003, which attempts to adopt the current version of the Lake Okeechobee Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP), as the only clean up plan for the lake is ill conceived. As the report notes, the BMAPs will not achieve the total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) and new, verifiable best management practices (BMPs) are needed.
“We believe this report shows the need and value of the EAA reservoir project and is a glaring call to action. Florida House and Senate members have been waiting for this report and have been deferring action on the EAA land purchase option until this report was completed.
“Notably, the report states ‘Currently, the state of Florida has an option to purchase approximately 46,000 acres in the EAA. The option is set to expire in October 2015. Thus, the state has a limited window of opportunity to purchase this land at market prices. Given the limited opportunity and the uncertainty of any future similar opportunities to purchase large acreages of lands in the EAA, the state should consider this time-limited option. The particular 46,000 acres at issue may be useful for additional storage and treatment or may serve as lands that the state could trade with other agricultural interests in the area if land in different locations are needed.’
“This reinforces the position the Foundation has been advocating, and the Foundation encourages the legislature and the governor to act on the land purchase option now.
“As U.S. Sugar CEO Robert H. Buker, Jr. pointed out in 2010 in a Tampa Bay Times commentary, ‘Florida has a rare opportunity to reacquire a large swath of historic Everglades from a willing seller at a fair, independently appraised price. Don’t allow that opportunity to slip away.’ We couldn’t agree more.”