South Florida Water District is Leasing 18K of Florida Sugar Land Acres that Crist Flagged for Everglades Restoration. Smart Move.
In order to get some cash flow in the face of government budget cuts, the South Florida Water Management District is inviting agricultural operators (including citrus growers) to lease up to 18,000 acres of the 26,800 acres purchased from U.S. Sugar last fall, using $197 million in tax dollars as part of Governor Crist's plan to protect and restore the Everglades.
The invite offers the land for a five-year lease. No word on how much moola that could provide to the South Florida Water Management District.
The proposed leasehold is located in Hendry County -- and it was originally targeted to be part of the first restoration efforts. The idea was to use this prime farm land, ideal for citrus and sugar cane, for cleaning and storing stormwaters that then be used as a needed water supply in the bigger plan to restore Everglades acreage. Now, the Water District will allow the land to return to its use for growing crops for at least the short term.
What's going on here?
Well, Governor Rick Scott is looking at numbers and his idea to cut property taxes means that the South Florida Water Management District has to find some revenue - fast - or face letting people go, as well as putting a hold on the Everglades restoration.
So, the Water District is trying to avoid cutting its staff by letting these 18,000 acres return to growing oranges or sugar instead of setting there for a couple of years. Environmental activists are not going to be happy about this delay in the Everglades project, but that doesn't seem to be a big priority in the state capital right now -- and from a land development perspective, the Water District seems to be making a very smart move.