Florida Crystals Corp. warned today that the environmental alliance calling for the state to use Amendment 1 funds to purchase U.S. Sugar lands located south of Lake Okeechobee could “derail” long-term Everglades conservation plans.
In a statement released Friday, Florida Crystals Vice President Gaston Cantens criticized an earlier announcement by the Everglades Trust urging lawmakers once again to support the sugar land purchase with money from the water and land conservation measure approved by voters in November.
“The state cannot allow the Everglades Foundation to once again derail restoration,” said Cantens. “It was only a short time ago that the Foundation coerced a Florida governor into stopping meaningful projects in order to waste restoration dollars on needless land acquisition.
“The state has more than 100,000 acres already in public ownership for Everglades restoration,” he added. “It’s time to stay the course and use that land for restoration work.”
Florida Crystals is asking the state to follow (HB 7065) approved by legislators in 2013 and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott. The law provides $880 million for Everglades restoration, including $32 million annually for cleanup of run-off water from South Florida farms.
Everglades Trust is pushing legislators to allocate about $350 million for 46,800 acres, including 26,100 acres for reservoir construction in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
Oct. 12 is the deadline for the state to agree to the deal. If not, they will have to purchase another 157,000 acres to develop the reservoir.
After two years of planning, former Gov. Charlie Crist completed the deal in 2010.
The agreement is the only option immediately available for water to Lake Okeechobee south through the Everglades. Estimates are that Amendment 1 will generate nearly $757 million in 2015 for land and water preservation and maintenance.
Legislators will divide the funds during its annual 60-day session beginning Tuesday.