By: Katrina Elsken, Lake Okeechobee News
SOUTH FLORIDA — Land designated for the future Everglades Agricultural (EAA) reservoir is once again involved in a lawsuit. Florida Wildlife Federation Inc. has filed a legal challenge to the South Florida Water Management Governing Board’s decision to lease most of the land for sugar farming for at least two years.
The SFWMD Governing Board voted Nov. 8 to approve an eight-year lease extension with Florida Crystals on 16,150 acres of state land designated as the future site of the EAA reservoir. After 20 months, SFWMD can terminate the lease with four months’ notice, if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is ready to start construction of the reservoir. The agreement immediately terminated the lease on 560 acres of state land; Within a week, SFWMD had already started site work, bulldozing sugar cane fields. The 560 acres will be used for storage of rocks mined for use in the giant reservoir’s dike, which will be about the same height at the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.
The lease agreement can be terminated by the state after 20 months with four months notice. The Corps has estimated design and engineering work will take about three years; SFWMD officials have given the “best case scenario” at a minimum of two years. During those two years, SFWMD will be stockpiling raw materials for the dike and conducting geological testing.
Design and engineering work for the massive reservoir project has not yet started. It will start as soon as the federal government appropriates the funding. The EAA reservoir plan has been approved by Congress and signed by the president, but it still awaits a federal funding allocation…