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article imageFlorida has one last chance to save the Everglades

By Karen Graham     Mar 14, 2015 in Environment
Everglades - There's an ugly rumor going around the Internet that says Florida's Everglades will be "killed in October by Florida's own Koch Brothers." But there is more to the story than just the headline.
The rumored stories showed up on the Daily Kos and Alternet. Both stories refer to the Fanjul family of Palm Beach, Florida as the state's very own "Koch Brothers." They are the owners of Flo-Sun, Inc., a huge sugar and real estate conglomerate in the U.S. and Dominican Republic. They alone control one-third of the country's raw sugar.
But the main gist of the Alternet and Daily Kos stories was actually about a parcel of land on the southwestern edge of lake Okeechobee. It is considered a key parcel of land, and is necessary to the future longevity of the lake itself and the Everglades National Park. Right now, the parcel of land is owned by huge sugar corporations, among them U.S. Sugar Corporation, Florida Crystals, owned by the Fanjul family, as well as other smaller companies.
The map below shows which sugar companies own which parcels of land around Lake Okeechobee. The land in yellow is owned by Florida Crystals, and the land in orange is owned by U.S. Sugar. The parcel of land the state of Florida has an option to buy until October 12, 2015 is a block on the southwest side of the lake colored in red and yellow. The parcel consists of 46.800 acres, and the state will be allowed to purchase the land at fair market value.
What the land purchase will do for the environment
At this time, the sugar companies are irrigating their crops with water taken from the lake. There are no environmental controls on the discharge of toxic wastewaters back into the lake or estuaries. If the state purchases the parcel of land in question, there are plans in place to create large surface reservoirs to contain the wastewater. The reservoirs would make it possible for freshwater to again be allowed to flow into the Everglades and on into the Florida Bay.
Besides stopping the continuing contamination of the waters in Lake Okeechobee, Florida is eventually going to have to address the looming water quality and water supply shortage. But with a Republican-heavy state government refusing to acknowledge that climate change or global warming even exist, they certainly have no great interest in the Everglades.
Harvesting sugar cane in Florida s Everglades Agricultural Area.
Harvesting sugar cane in Florida's Everglades Agricultural Area.
Conservation Technology Information Center
In Florida's 2014 legislative session, ending May 2 of last year, nothing was done about the water shortage and water quality problems already existing in the state, and the buy-back of the parcel of land was not even mentioned. Now, with this year's legislative session slated to end on May 1, the state will have to make a decision, one way or the other. Environmental groups have already started lobbying to convince lawmakers to spend the $350 million to buy the land from U.S. Sugar.
The Everglades Trust even has a TV spot airing in south Florida markets, urging people to contact their state legislators to find the money to buy the land. But with all this going on, U.S. Sugar says no one has contacted them about purchasing the land. Even more interesting is the latest comment from the sugar company. They have issued a statement saying the state has found other and better ways to store excess water from Lake Okeechobee.
Could this be part of a sneaky way of getting out of spending money the voters of the state have already given approval on? Last November, 75 percent of Floridians voted YES to a constitutional amendment making vital land purchases for the Everglades a part of the Florida Constitution. Now it is up to the legislature to fund the purchase and the governor to sign off on it. Voters are being asked to sign a petition demanding the legislature follow through on the amendment.
More about Everglades, florida republicans, US Sugar, florida crystals, expires in october
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