The South Florida Water Management District posted a revised “Sugar Deal” contract on its website Wednesday. This latest version proposes $197 million for 26,800 acres with an option to buy the remaining land at $7,400 per acre. This marks the third downsize for the contract, which started out as a $1.75 billion bid for more than 180,000 acres of the U.S. Sugar Corp’s land.
In an Aug. 5 press release, Florida CFO Alex Sink commended the proposal, calling it “more fiscally responsible in these challenging economic times.” Sink went on to say that the deal was a mutually beneficial one for the SFWMD and Floridians alike:
Because the SFWMD is using existing resources, no debt will be incurred and South Florida residents will not face property tax increases. The lands identified for purchase will also have a direct impact on improving water quality, addressing concerns raised in recent federal court decisions. And given my own advocacy of transparency and accountability in government, I compliment the SFWMD for posting the contract online to assure citizens are given accessible information in this process.
The Sugar Deal was originally intended as a solution for the copious amounts of phosphorus-loaded fertilizers that find their way into the Everglades after heavy farming on surrounding land. Should the SFWMD buy the land, they can use it to clean and restore the water, and therefore lessen the impact on the local ecosystem. Just this past week, the Everglades was again placed on a list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Danger.