TCPalm: January 26, 2017. Written by Isadora Rangel.
Florida Senate President Joe Negron sent an ultimatum to state water officials: buy land to reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges or lawmakers will force a sale.
A bill filed Thursday directs the South Florida Water Management District to secure willing sellers of 60,000 acres south of the lake to build a reservoir to store excess lake water. The state would borrow $1.2 billion to pay for the purchase and the project.
If the district cannot find willing sellers by Dec. 31, the state would have until 2018 to hold U.S. Sugar Corp. to a 2010 agreement to sell its land. The state and the company could negotiate to buy less than the 153,000 acres, but the company would have to sell unless it finds a loophole in the contract it signed with former Gov. Charlie Crist's administration, Everglades Foundation lawyer Anna Upton said. The company agreed to sell the land for Everglades restoration but most of the deal fell through in the aftermath of the Great Recession.