The Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District voted unanimously to grant Florida Crystals an eight-year lease extension to grow sugarcane on 15,440 acres of state-owned land. That parcel located south of Lake Okeechobee is also slated to be the site for a new reservoir critical to Everglades restoration.
The EAA Reservoir has taken on added importance in recent years because of the toxic blue-green algae crisis that has decimated both coasts of Florida. Rather than pumping polluted lake water into Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie rivers, the water would be sent south to the planned reservoir, where it would be cleaned and then sent south into the Everglades and Florida Bay.
Congressman, Brian Mast attended the meeting on behalf of himself and Governor-elect Ron DeSantis to ask the board to postpone a vote on the lease until they had an opportunity to review it. Environmental and conservation groups also asked for a delay. But the SFWMD refused and voted unanimously to approve the lease.
Complaints have now arisen because the lease was negotiated in secret and placed on the district’s agenda at 9 pm the night before the meeting. “It’s really a disgrace that there is even consideration about extending the lease when the item got added to the agenda last night at 9 o’clock”, said Daniels Andrews co-founder of Captains For Clean Water.
Congressman Mast is calling on South Florida Water Management District members to resign. Captains for Clean Water has also called on the Governing Board to resign.