May 16, 2011
The people of Florida have a truly amazing opportunity.
Purchase 180,000 acres of overdrained and tainted sugar land in order to restore Mother Nature's long-lost River of Grass.
That's a dream we've nurtured for a half-century.
The deal to buy U.S. Sugar's property will reconnect Lake Okeechobee to
the Everglades, save the estuaries from horrendous discharges, rebuild ground-
water systems and reduce phosphorous fertilizer pollution by hundreds and
hundreds of tons.
Those benefits alone are more than enough to justify the buy, at a price that
will be viewed as a can't-miss bargain compared to the public good.
And we'd suggest this icing on the cake:
The River of Grass Restoration Reserve
This new Reserve could transform the immense property (the size of many
state parks combined) into a natural wonderland, while at the same time provide
vitally needed basic benefits of the Missing Link flowway.
Imagine a network of waterways offering all kinds of public uses, such as:
- Many miles of canoe and kayak access
- Nature trails rarely enjoyed anywhere
- World-class birding drawing millions
- Extraordinary freshwater fishing
- Duck hunting supreme in certain areas
- Vistas of Glades life in large scale
- Important educational centers
Lake communities could benefit in many ways. It could be a significant part of
a needed economic program to aid folks on the south side of the lake.
The Reserve idea hatched after we visited Guana Reserve just north of St.
Augustine. Guana covers 55,000 acres and offers many of the same features envisioned for the River of Grass Reserve. Take a look at www.nerrs.noaa.gov/GTM
It's exciting to think of the possibilities.
First, of course, we must acquire the sugar land.
There are naysayers picking at details of the purchase. The hidden hand of
certain agricultural interests is in the background. And some observers worry
that U.S. Sugar owners will make an undeserved bundle in the deal.
Actually the price equivalent to $7,000 an acre is something the public can live
with, especially considering that there is no real alternative.
The contract closing is slated for later this year.
Get it done, we say, and tie in the Restoration Reserve that would gain world-
wide appeal and significance.