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.
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 www.sfwmd.gov/riverofgrass .