June 28, 2008
The Everglades the Issue: Natural Wonder Getting a Boost. Our View: Epic Development, Although Workers Hurt.
With as much fanfare and publicity as possible, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and representatives from U.S. Sugar and the South Florida Water Management District announced that the state would purchase 187,000 acres of land, plus equipment, a railroad spur and a mining operation, from U.S. Sugar for about $1.7 billion.
Those who have long seen the sugar cane and agricultural lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area as the "missing link" between Lake Okeechobee and the "River of Grass" were euphoric about the purchase, seeing it as the way to re-create the water flow between the lake and the Everglades via a managed system of reservoirs and wetlands.
It is certainly an environmental coup of epic proportions, and we applaud the transaction as a "once in a generation opportunity."
But for the 1,700 U.S. Sugar workers who depend on this company for their livelihood it is quite a different story, despite the planned six-year transition and the company's payouts to its employees.
Executive Director Carol Ann Wehle told reporters Tuesday that the district would work with the local community, the Florida tourism people and those in economic development to create an economic strategy.
That's all well and good, but this isn't an economically booming area to begin with, and this strategy needs to be well thought out and, more important, implemented as soon as possible. No politics. No posturing.
The state got what it wants with a link between the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. Now it's time for the state and its leaders, both within the Florida Legislature and Congress, to step up and make sure that new life for the Everglades doesn't signal the death of the economy just north of it.
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