Everglades Land Purchase May Threaten Existing Project

Fri August 01, 2008 - Southeast Edition

WELLINGTON, Fla. (AP) A new Everglades land deal could undermine an existing water project that has already cost the state millions of dollars.

Gov. Charlie Crist announced a $1.75 billion deal June 24 to purchase 187,000 acres (75,700 ha) from U.S. Sugar Corp., but the deal could cause a multimillion-dollar reservoir under construction in western Palm Beach County to become obsolete before it’s finished.

The state has already invested approximately $250 million in the project, but finishing the reservoir might not fit into the new plan of letting water flow from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.

The South Florida Water Management District stopped work on the reservoir earlier in June, claiming it had to resolve a lawsuit with an environmental group challenging how the reservoir water would be used. But Brad Sewell, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the purpose of the lawsuit was to guarantee the reservoir water went to the Everglades, not to stop construction.

District officials maintain that the lawsuit — not the pending land deal — stopped construction.