A shake up at the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel shuffles out long time editor Doug Lyons while ushering in Rosemary Goudreau into the lead spot. Goudreau, prior to coming onboard the Sun-Sentinel, was the editor-at-helm for FloridaVoices.com before it showed it’s stern to the sky in 2013. Lyons, formerly of U.S. News and World Report, and of Ebony is a forthright and articulate writer on the civil rights front who provided some reasoned balance to the Sun Sentinel when it came to environmental issues.
With the ousting of Lyons comes an indicator of the new, and perhaps rudderless course for the publication with an editorial penned by the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board on June 12, 2015 entitled “Reconsider Purchase of US Sugar Lands”. Sadly, this editorial ignores science and the law to join the fashionable craze to buy a small reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee with the idea that such a reservoir could impact either the river estuaries or the Everglades.
The legislature closed the door on this idea yesterday by not appropriating funds from Amendment One to purchase land south of the Lake after the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) terminated the US Sugar land Option in May.
Despite enormous political pressure, the SFWMD correctly determined that the 46,000 acres of US Sugar land on which the state held an option would cost $700 million, rather than $500 million and would require $2.5 billion in engineering costs to be utilized as a 26,000 acre reservoir. The SFWMD determined that this would provide only 120,000 acre gallons of water, not enough to impact a $4.5 million acre/gallon problem. Put simply, it was far too much money for far too little water. Florida taxpayers will get more bang for their buck in other vital water projects, already approved by the Army Corp of Engineers as viable, and costed out by state engineers as affordable.
That’s why the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program places no priority on a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, why the so-called U.S. Sugar Option was recently cancelled, and why the scientists, water managers, and policy-makers who have been working on Everglades restoration for decades have no such project on their agendas.
The Sun Sentinel doesn’t seem to comprehend that the precise text of Amendment 1 makes no mention or requirement of spending a disproportionate amount of money available in the Everglades Agricultural Area nor is there any mention or requirement of land south of Lake Okeechobee. Thus 75% of the voters did not vote to buy land south of the lake as advocated by the Everglades Foundation and Senator Joe Negron.
Where the Sun Sentinel really misses the boat is with the spurious claim that sugar farmers are providing no alternative vision for restoring Lake Okeechobee, the river estuaries, or the Everglades. In fact, the 20 year $10 billion Everglades Restoration Project is proving most effective. Testing and research show a 55% level drop in phosphorous in court mandated water tests within 75% of the glades. State scientists and farmers are quickly reaching a consensus that a larger water storage facility north of Lake Okeechobee is the ultimate solution to the question of water quality in the lake, the estuaries, and the Everglades. The Sunshine State News recently reported on the optimism of the Caulkins water farm project has sparked.
Evidently the Sun Sentinel lacks a legal reporter or a house lawyer. The US Sugar Option was officially terminated by the state by the act of the South Florida Water Management District board on May 15, 2015. Though the state had until October 15th to exercise, with the decision of the SFWMD board the option has been extinguished.
Though the battle cry of “buy the land” has become de rigueur for the fashionable people in Palm Beach, as has the mindless mantra that Amendment 1 somehow mandated the purchase of land south of Lake Okeechobee for purposes of water storage, this view is based on politics, not science. It also ignores the law regarding any possibility of acquiring the US Sugar property. The folks at the Sun Sentinel need to re-examine both the science and the actions of the South Florida Water Management District to update their environmental views.