Everglades restoration deal could still benefit Big Sugar
When Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced in June that the state would buy 187,000 acres of land from U.S. Sugar Corp. to “jump start” an Everglades restoration effort, environmentalists cheered visions of flowing, fresh water and pristine, untouched habitat. But that may not turn out to be exactly the case. Crist initially said he would use the land to build a flow way between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades, quenching the thirsty River of Grass with water untainted by phosphorus from sugar production. But for that plan to go forward, the state will also have to obtain 40,000 acres owned by a subsidiary of sugar behemoth Florida Crystals. Since the flow way would require less land than what Crist is buying from U.S. Sugar, many expect that the state will orchestrate a swap with Florida Crystals instead of taking the land out of production. Closed-door negotiations are ongoing. Meanwhile, a Florida Crystals spokesperson says the company has cleaned up its act and is not the Everglades’ nemesis, as most phosphorus pollution in the region now comes from non-sugar sources.