Stating Florida must comply with the original 1992 consent decree to address Everglades pollution, U.S. District Judge Federico A. Moreno granted on March 31 the Miccosukee tribe’s motion to compel completion of a key reservoir. Since 2008, the work has stopped on the $700-million project in Palm Beach County; instead, state funds have been plowed into buying private sugar-growing land near Lake Okeechobee for a new restoration plan.
Parties now are weighing the potential impact. Landowner U.S. Sugar Corp. says the ruling “does not preclude” the state’s continuing land purchase to meet the consent decree’s terms. Tribal officials and those of the South Florida Water Management District, which manages the state’s Everglades restoration, declined to comment.
Thom Rumberger, chairman of the Everglades Trust, a nonprofit overseeing the restoration, also disagrees with the judge’s ruling. “The reservoir is unnecessary and expensive,” he says. “It is our opinion and that of the scientists … that it’s more advantageous to have the property.” David Guest, attorney for environmental group EarthJustice, argues whether the ruling “is lethal to the land purchase, but there are a lot of things to go down between here and there.”
Construction on the 16,700-acre reservoir and flood control project which began in 2006, had been managed by a joint venture of Barnard Construction Co. Inc., Bozeman, Mont., and Parsons Water & Infrastructure, Pasadena, Calif.
Last year, Florida Gov. Charles Crist (R) announced a scaled-back land purchase plan. And in March, the water management district announced it would extend until Sept. 30 a deadline for in the public finance process, due to a legal challenge. A hearing in that case before the Florida Supreme Court is set for later this month.