SCCF speaks out for estuary at West Palm meeting
SCCF Executive Director Erick Lindblad attended the Aug. 12 South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board meeting in West Palm Beach to represent the west coast on two issues of tremendous importance locally:the U.S. Sugar land purchase and the Adaptive Protocols for Lake Okeechobee.
U.S. Sugar land purchase
The Governing Board voted 6-0 to approve a scaled-down purchase of land from the U.S. Sugar Corporation:almost 27,000 acres for $197 million.The original proposal by Governor Charlie Crist was to purchase 180,000 acres but current economic conditions and recent court cases have impacted the funding.There is a ten-year option to purchase the balance of 153,000 acres.
It is extremely important that this first step be taken."Nothing is more important for Everglades restoration than buying land," Lindblad said during public comment."We are absolutely 100 percent supportive of this acquisition."The scaling-down of the purchase is disappointing but it is the best attainable at this time. Also speaking from the west coast on the sugar land purchase was Jennifer Hecker of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Adaptive Protocols for Lake Okeechobee
A second issue of vital interest that was presented at the Governing Board meeting was the Adaptive Protocols for Lake Okeechobee Operations, a document that will be used operationally by water managers when making releases from the lake.For over a year, SCCF has been working to establish Adaptive Protocols that include the needs of the estuary in water management decisions.The current system for making decisions strongly favors permitted users (agriculture and public water supply) over environmental concerns.
Lindblad and John Fumero, attorney for Lee County, spoke about the need for Adaptive Protocols that take into account the environmental needs of the Caloosahatchee and estuary.