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Everglades landowners ‘not willing sellers’ for Joe Negron’s Lake O reservoir

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A group of landowners in the Everglades Agricultural Area are telling the state officials that selling land south of lake Okeechobee do nothing to fix problems they believe are caused north of the lake.

Senate President Joe Negron is pushing a Senate proposal seeks to create a $2.4-billion, 60,000-acre reservoir for Everglades water storage.

If there aren’t enough willing sellers, SB 10 says then 153,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land can be purchased under an option entered in 2010.

In a letter signed by 14 EAA landowners — including U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals and others — the landowners say just that: they are “not willing sellers of their property to the government.”

Each one of the names on the letter own more than 2,500 acres apiece: Robert Buker Jr. of both U.S. Sugar and SBG Farms; Robert Underbrink of Big B Sugar; James Shine Jr. of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, Raymond “Rick” Roth Jr. of Roth Farms; Alfonso and J. Pepe Fanjul of Florida Crystals Corp.; Alex Tiedkte of Eastgate Farms; John Hundley of Hundley Farms; Justin Soble of Star Ranch Enterprises and Star Farms; Alonso Azqueta of Trucane Sugar; private landowners Frances and Homer Hand; and Dennis Wedgworth of Wedgworth Farms.

“Water reservoirs south of Lake Okeechobee simply cannot store enough water to stop the discharges from lake Okeechobee when our region is inundated from harry rains,” they write. “Buying more land does not fix the problem.”

Additional publicly owned land, the landowners point out, would not have prevented the algae outbreak in Martin County to coastal estuaries.

No local, state or federal agency that seriously studied South Florida’s water issues have determined any land purchased in the EAA would “solve the region’s water challenges.”

Farmers in the EAA have been working for more than two decades to help restore the Everglades, the letter says and in that time, they have seen over 120,000 acres of farmland south of Lake O purchased by the state.

“Plans to buy land with little to no benefit to environmental restoration only serve as a distraction,” the letter concludes. “By staying focused on the science, we can ensure reaching the goal we started more than two decades ago can become a reality.”

The Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation is scheduled to hear SB 10 at a meeting 2-4 p.m. Tuesday in Room 412 of the Knott Building.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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