Environmental groups supporting the purchase of 46,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land launched on Wednesday commercials and released a petition from scientists in support of the proposal.
The ads from the Everglades Trust show polluted water from Lake Okeechobee being discharged into the St. Lucie River with signs in Martin County warning against swimming.
“Legislators must respect the mandate of the voters and use the Amendment 1 funds for what the voters intended — to buy lands in the Everglades and protect our drinking water,” Everglades Trust President Mary Barley said. “We must act now to save Florida’s water, time is running out.”
Another group, the Everglades Foundation, released an Everglades Restoration Petition, following the delivery of the petition last week to state leaders and the South Florida Water Management District.
The petition, with 207 signatures from 33 academic institutions, says expanding storage and treatment south of Lake Okeechobee and increasing clean water flowing from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades are essential to protecting the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries and Florida Bay, the Everglades Foundation said.
“The Everglades scientific community clearly wishes to express this directly to our elected leaders and water managers,” said Thomas Van Lent, director of science and policy at the Everglades Foundation. “Hopefully, this petition will spur the implementation of projects that expand storage and treatment in the EAA.”
The state in 2010 signed an option to buy the U.S. Sugar Corp. land. But the company says the restoration strategy has changed dramatically since the 2010 deal was reached.
Judy Sanchez, a spokeswoman for U. S. Sugar, responded that the Everglades Foundation is hijacking the threat to estuaries to stay relevant and raise money.
She said the Legislature in 2013 passed unanimously passed a state law implementing an agreement to provide funding to complete new projects. The agreement did not contemplate acquisition of the U. S. Sugar land.
“The sugar industry wants to see restoration completed and the final chapter closed so we can move on with our businesses,” Sanchez said.
Bruce Ritchie (@bruceritchie) covers environment, energy and growth management in Tallahassee.