April 2, 2010

Court Ruling Endangers Everglades Purchase

A deal proposed by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to save the Everglades is in danger now that a Federal District Court Judge has ordered construction of a $700 million reservoir in Palm Beach County to resume.

Approximately two years ago, Crist proposed to purchase the Everglades land owned by United States Sugar Corp. for $1.75 billion dollars. At the time, he called it a deal that would rescue the wetlands and would be "as monumental as the creation of the nation's first national park, Yellowstone."

However, the proposal has been reduced twice since then, and on Tuesday, the now $536 million purchase of 73,000 acres of Everglades territory became endangered when Justice Federico A. Moreno ruled that postponed construction of the reservoir be resumed.  The cost of the facility could make it impossible for the state to raise the funds necessary to complete the Everglades purchase.

Work on the 25-square mile reservoir was postponed in 2008 after water managers claimed that lawsuits from environmentalists could endanger the project. The reservoir, which would be the largest such facility on the planet, was put on hold a month before Crist's plan to purchase the land from United States Sugar was initially announced.

In his ruling, Moreno agreed with Miccosukee Indian representatives that halting construction on the reservoir would cause pollution on the tribe's lands, which is located within the Everglades.

U.S. Sugar spokesperson Judy Sanchez still said that the Everglades sale, which also faces a challenge in the Supreme Court, could still be completed. "With the time frame involved in all that considering, the U.S. Sugar deal could very well be approved and worked into the district's budget," she told Damien Cave of the New York Times on Thursday.


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