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The Truth About The Everglades Land Purchase

everglades foundation, everglades florida, florida everglades, everglades restoration, east orlando post, east orlando news, news east orlando, jacob engels, news orlando, orlando news, seminole county news, news seminole county, seminole county post,

Politically-motivated special interests are spending millions trying to convince the legislature, the Governor and Florida taxpayers that a $500 million land grab has something to do with Everglades restoration.

 

By Jacob Engels

 

In recent days, a guest column appeared at the Orlando Sentinel pages entitled: “Scott’s Legacy? Restore flow, stop discharges to Everglades”. Written by William Balgord, the column painted an ugly picture of environmental catastrophe caused by discharges of water into the Everglades from Lake Okeechobee.

 

While Balgord’s characterization of well-known impacts conveniently ignores the considerable progress -- at great expense and effort -- that has been made toward restoring Everglades water quality, the real problem with his column is his contention that spending $500 million of our tax dollars to buy 46,000 acres of farmland south of Lake O will magically solve the problem. It won’t. The scientists know it. The professional water managers know it. Serious environmentalists know it, and taxpayers know it.

 

Balgord even goes further to suggest that spending all that money to grab 46,000 acres for the government -- plus as much as $2 BILLION more to build a reservoir on that acreage -- will somehow cement the Governor’s “legacy” of restoring the Everglades. In fact it's too little water for too great a cost.

 

Buying into a politically-driven land grab will do no more for Governor Scott’s legacy than it will do for the Everglades. The Governor’s legacy is just fine. He has pledged to finish the real work of Everglades restoration, and has backed up that pledge with proposed funding to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Rick Scott does not just talk the talk on Everglades Restoration-he walks the walk with $900 million to finish the job.

 

Everyone, including the Governor, agrees on the importance of restoring and protecting water quality in the Everglades. To suggest that a $500 million land grab is somehow equivalent to securing anyone’s Everglades legacy simply ignores reality -- not to mention science, hydrology and hard-earned consensus among the professionals who are actually doing the work of restoration.

 

In 2013 the Everglades Foundation said in their annual report that finishing the CEPP and the completion of Resovoirs C-43 and C-44 were the solution to the Lake discharge problem. No mention of the 46,000 acres south of the lake. Now the Foundation would have us divert money from finishing the very projects they identified as vital.

 

Reality is that the environmental and water experts who have developed the Everglades restoration program have identified and agreed upon more than 40 priority projects that need to be completed. Exercising the U.S. Sugar option to buy landsouth of Lake O isn’t on the list -- for several good reasons.

 

Mr. Balgord correctly points out that, seven years ago, U.S. Sugar and the State agreed to create the “option” to buy these and other lands. But that’s just what it was: An option. Today, with the benefit of more science, more negotiation and achieving expert consensus, exercising that option isn’t a priority for anyone who is really serious about Evergladesrestoration.

 

The reason it isn’t a priority is simple. As the Everglades Foundation itself has made clear, the real solution to reducing the impacts from Lake Okeechobee discharges is completing the Caloosahatchee Reservoir and Indian River Lagoon projects to capture, store and clean those discharges. Buying 46,000 acres of land elsewhere isn’t part of the plan, and would only take money away from the completion of those two essential projects -- which the experts have identified as the real keys to protecting the “precious estuaries” Mr. Balgord talks about.

 

Politically-motivated special interests are spending millions trying to convince the legislature, the Governor and Florida taxpayers that a $500 million land grab has something to do with Everglades restoration. It doesn’t. Mr. Balgord appears to have drunk the Kool-Aid.

 

 

Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

Comments

Comment: 

Hit-and-run attack by ill-informed blogger

Dr. Balgord's piece really isn't about environmental damages to the Everglades. That’s not where the discharges are going. They are directed, as he pointed out in an opinion piece in the Orlando Sentinel, The Tampa Bay Times and the TC Palm newspapers, eastward down the C-24 Canal into the St. Lucie River estuary and west along the Caloosahatchie River to its estuary in Ft. Myers. Those estuarine systems are absorbing the brunt of the damage he writes about.
Water from the lake is directed down either one, or both outlets, whenever lake levels exceed a pre-determined height (by the Corps engineers) through lock and dam control at the lake itself. The water is not entering the undeveloped portions of the Everglades at this juncture, except for minor irrigation losses. The restoration plan contemplates directing the outlet flows southward to a large holding reservoir preliminarily before allowing controlled sheet flow of "purified" water to enter the undeveloped Glades through the envisaged corridor to percolate southward. The process is briefly explained in Dr. Balgord's piece.
Mr. Engels should also be aware that the plan to purchase various (not necessarily contiguous) parcels from US Sugar, added to the 24,000 acres already purchased, would precede a future beneficial swap with lands now owned by the Fanjuls (also sugarcane growers).
The US Sugar lands to be acquired lie in generally more fertile areas bordering the Lake and are recognized as more agriculturally productive than those in the planned corridor to be acquired ultimately from the Fanjuls.
Mr. Engels cries crocodile tears over the spending of public funds for a worthy purpose. Amendment 1 ratified by the people of Florida in November 2014, and by a more than a 75% majority of voters, affirmed the use of revenues collected from the growing real estate transfer fee fund of Florida. The tax generates many millions of dollars annually and has been earmarked for projects such as Everglades restoration and for rectifying environmental damages such as that being inflicted on the two named rivers, their estuaries and the lagoonal bodies extending north and south (Indian River Lagoon, in particular) along both coasts. A better use for these monies could not be found.
Is Mr. Engels willing to admit to himself that the key reason the governor may not wish to commit available funds for the land needed to complete the corridor (via the swap as described above) is that the sugar interests have been feverishly at work in Tallahassee to dissuade him and key members of the legislature that the project should not go forward? In the growers’ estimation the land is worth more at current valuation than in 2008 and would be worth even more in just a few more years, with expanded costs putting the future acquisition by the state far out of reach. The value of developing the Everglades (for private residential and commercial projects) could in time easily double its current value. Just who is being unrealistic here?
The 40 thieves (the pet projects favored by the governor's advisers, the crony corporatists and their lobbyists) would soon dissolve the targeted $500 million in a pork barrel's worth of patronage.
And, further Jake, cleaning up the nutrients in the lake water needs to begin far upstream in Seminole and Orange Counties where you and several million other Floridians live in greater Orlando. Each is contributing his daily share to the effluent load in the south-flowing Kissimmee River (and its broad drainage basin) that leads to Lake Okeechobee.
Secondary and tertiary municipal water treatment is needed to remove the phosphorus and other nutrients from the Kissimmee before it stimulates more episodes of run-way algal growth. It would be an expensive proposition, but a good start. Effective control will come at a high price, as they say let the polluters pay right where it is happening, but it would end the practice of dumping the problem into the laps of Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Lee and Charlotte counties.
By the time the fetid mess arrives at the estuaries there is no longer any effective way to deal with the blooms until after many weeks of tidal exchanges move most (albeit not all) of the residue out to sea. By that time more sea grass, oysters, fish of many kinds and other forms of lagoonal life, particularly vulnerable to fresh water incursions and algal depredation, have been destroyed.
Attempts to build holding reservoirs downstream along the named canals have been tried already. After many millions were spent on one such project in St. Lucie County, the reservoir was rejected before completion and became another casualty of overlapping, divided governmental jurisdictions. A dry lake now sits on unproductive land.
Dr. Balgord is no drinker of Kool-aid. Of that I am quite certain, since I note he is frequently set upon by the progressives for his free-market positions. He must think it odd, however, to have become the target of a RINO lobbyist this time around.

Your obedient servant,

HL Mencken

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