A massive real estate deal with U.S. Sugar Corporation that is envisioned as being key to protecting the Everglades and Everglades National Park has been approved, but with a caveat that provides Florida officials an escape clause.
Officially listed as a $1.34 billion deal, but one that could prove much more expensive according to critics, the deal was OKed on Tuesday by a narrow 4-3 vote from the South Florida Water Management District.
The 181,000 acres involved in the purchase is viewed as invaluable to the national park. It will, figuratively speaking, straighten a kink in the natural plumbing of the region. It's been developments such as the sugar plantation that have disrupted natural water flows from the lake into the park. Without them, the so-called "River of Grass" can't survive.
The Everglades Coalition’s Essentials for Everglades Restoration has identified nine restoration essentials and benchmarks that must be achieved if the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is going to deliver benefits as it originally promised. Four of these essentials addressed the critical need for more water storage and treatment to truly restore our River of Grass.
But in debating the project on Tuesday, members of the management district pointed to hard economic times that will force the state to cut budgets, too little time to appropriately consider such a massive deal, and a deal that overwhelmingly benefits the sugar corporation.
The one salvation the management district attached to the deal's language was a clause that would allow the district to back out of the deal if it would bankrupt the agency.
Perhaps, though, this is not a done deal, as closing on it isn't scheduled to occur until Sept. 25, 2009.