Environmentalists urged the South Florida Water Management District to purchase land for Everglades restoration at its governing board meeting in West Palm Beach Thursday. They’re worried the district will not act in time to buy the land.
The South Florida Water Management District’s option to buy land that would move water south from Lake Okeechobee expires in October.
Director of Natural Resource Policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Jennifer Hecker said failure to purchase the land could hinder other Everglades restoration projects.
“This is a critical missing piece of the puzzle that we don’t see political will yet to pursue,” she said. “And without this missing piece, we’re afraid that all of the projects won’t work collectively together to achieve their intended benefit.”
The land’s current owner, U.S. Sugar, has proposed a development plan on some of the land.
Proponents called for the district to add the purchase to its agenda; either in a special meeting or at next month’s meeting.
District board member James Moran said there are problems with moving the water south such as engineering and species protection constraints.
“If it were as simple as buying that land and moving that water south, I don’t think you all would be here today," he said. "But trust me when I tell you it’s just not that simple.”
The board wasn’t clear on whether it would make the purchase an agenda item, but another member said they should vote on it.