Thursday, August 12, 2010

State Finalizing U.S. Sugar Purchase

26,800 Acres To Be Acquired For $197 Million - $7351 Per Acre

CLEWISTON, FL. -- The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board today approved unanimously with one abstention a revised strategy to acquire land from the United States Sugar Corporation for Everglades restoration. The amended agreement provides for the initial purchase of approximately 26,800 acres of strategically located land south of Lake Okeechobee, with options to purchase another 153,000 acres should economic conditions allow in the future.

Under the amended terms, the District would initially invest approximately $197 million in cash to immediately acquire 26,800 acres, or 42 square miles, of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) and C-139 basin for water quality and environmental restoration projects. The District would have options to purchase the remaining 153,000 acres of land from U.S. Sugar for up to 10 years.

Highlights of the amended acquisition include:
  • Acquisition of 17,900 citrus acres in Hendry County to improve water quality in the C-139 basin, where phosphorus loads have been historically high. This parcel, just west of thousands of acres of existing constructed wetlands, can be used for water storage and treatment facilities that would improve the quality of water flowing into the Everglades.
  • Purchase of 8,900 acres of sugarcane land in Palm Beach County to benefit the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge by expanding existing Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) and increasing water quality treatment for the S-5A basin, just east of Lake Okeechobee.
  • An exclusive 3-year option to purchase either a specifically identified 46,800 acres or the entire 153,000 acres at a fixed price of $7,400 per acre. U.S. Sugar could sell the option property to a third party but must retain the District's option.
  • After the exclusive option period, a subsequent 2-year, non-exclusive option to purchase the approximately 46,800 acres at Fair Market Value. U.S. Sugar could sell all or a part of the option property, but subject to a Right of First Refusal by the District.
  • A subsequent 7-year, non-exclusive option to purchase the remaining acres at Fair Market Value. U.S. Sugar could sell all or a part of the option property, but subject to a Right of First Refusal by the District.
  • Under the revised contracts, closing on the 26,800 acres would take place in October 2010.
In identifying the 26,800 acres for this acquisition, the District evaluated science and engineering factors as well as its existing requirements and mandates, all of which drive the agency's restoration and water quality improvement efforts. This acquisition, together with the Talisman lands, would give the District access to more than 50,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee needed for project construction that will bring meaningful water quality and environmental improvements to the Everglades.

Today's action by the SFWMD Governing Board is the culmination of more than two years of work since Governor Charlie Crist first announced on June 24, 2008, that the District would begin negotiations with the U.S. Sugar Corporation to acquire land south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration.

The downsized, more affordable acquisition recognizes that economic conditions have changed dramatically since the original announcement and a subsequent revised agreement approved by the Governing Board in May 2009. The District's property tax revenues have declined by nearly $150 million, or 30 percent, since 2008.

For additional information, see Just the Facts: Reviving the River of Grass ­ Second Amended & Restated Agreement for Sale and Purchase.

Documents relating to the U.S. Sugar acquisition are posted online at .

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