By Jacob Engels
According to the supporters of the land purchase of 46,700 acres from US Sugar, Amendment 1, passed last year requires the state to exercise their option to buy the land.
In fact, the land is not specified anywhere in the Amendment’s language. Amendment 1 was designed to fund water quality and environmental projects across Florida.
Buying 46,700 acres south of Lake Okechobee for $700 million (the real price) to build a $2 billion 26,000 acre reservoir that won’t hold enough water to have any impact on estuaties or Everglades water quality, is the wrong choice…but that doesn’t stop The Everglades Foundation from pushing the option. It makes no hydrologic, environmental or economic sense and will only disrupt the final stage of the restoration program and divert resources from projects and efforts that are working.
What they say about Amendment 1 is false…here is why:
The actual language in Amendment 1 states that: “Funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall be expended only for the following purposes:
(1) As provided by law, to finance or refinance: the acquisition and improvement of land, water areas, and related property interests, including conservation easements, and resources for conservation lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife habitat; wildlife management areas; lands that protect water resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams, springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and aquifer systems; lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Article II, Section 7(b); beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands, including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space; rural landscapes; working farms and ranches; historic or geologic sites; together with management, restoration of natural systems, and the enhancement of public access or recreational enjoyment of conservation lands.
(2) To pay the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to Article VII, Section 11(e)
As was recently pointed out by Senator Alan Hays (R- Umatilla), chairman of the committee allocating Amendment 1 money, Florida already has 9.5 MILLION acres and already is having difficulty maintaining those lands.
“We need to be known as good stewards of the land we own.” Hays said.
Though Hays made it clear that his priority is to follow the will of the voters, he also stated “We don’t want to be known as the ‘hoarding land state.”
In fact 25% of Florida’s land mass is owned by government, the most of any state east of the Mississippi
Nowhere in Amendment 1, is there a designation of purpose for the purchase of specific lands, as proponents of the purchase of land from U.S. Sugar Corporation repeat time and again. It may be that in moving forward with such a purchase, the requirements of Amendment 1 would be violated, as funds would need to be stolen from other projects both working and scheduled.
Currently there are over 350 water projects around the state that have been approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, all of which have been researched and planned to completion with calculated and predictable results. Each of these projects will impact drinking water quality, and all of which have applied for Amendment 1 funds.
In contrast, there are no plans, no definitions, and nothing more substantial than the sentimental statement “it will help” associated with the purchase of the nearly 47,000 acres south-west of Lake Okeechobee.
While proponents of the land purchase are quick to imply the necessity of the land purchase, they have been notably silent on the successes already being achieved by current Everglades Restoration efforts and spending.
Nowhere in their own literature is there any recognition of the marked reduction of phosphorus content in the water, nowat historic lows.
Also noticeably absent from land purchase supporters literature is any reference to the $10 Billion that has already been successfully invested in Everglades Restoration, resulting in verifiable positive results that put Restoration and Protection efforts ahead of schedule.
Such omissions by the “environmentally conscious” supporters of the land purchase, while calling for an un-calculated, unplanned, unspecified and unfunded purchase smacks of manipulation and deception.
With current Everglades Protection and Restoration plans and projects on time and within budget, attempts by the Land Purchase proponents, seemingly to hinder current projects by a diversion of funds on an unnecessary purchase, can only serve to delay or derail the efforts, putting the future of the Everglades on hold.
At the end of the day this is about politics, not science. Paul Tudor Jones, the convicted felon and Hedge Fund billionaire who is pushing the land sale just wants to buy the land to buy the land.
And keep his Everglades Foundation afloat.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at email@example.com