SCCF and six partner organizations have joined forces to keep the sugar industry from succeeding with a lawsuit that threatens a key element of Everglades restoration and the future of water quality.
On Sept. 7, the Everglades Law Center filed a brief signed by SCCF and partners to support the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a lawsuit filed by three industrial sugar producers to stop the Corps from using the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Reservoir.
While there are a multitude of projects that contribute to the Comprehensive Everglades Recovery Plan (CERP), a lynchpin of the plan is the EAA A-2 Reservoir, which will provide a repository to store 240,000 acre-feet of water, much of it destined for the Everglades.
“Restoration of the Everglades is inextricably linked to the health of the Caloosahatchee River and estuary. The more water we can send south to where it is needed, the less risk we have of receiving damaging flows from Lake Okeechobee,” said Environmental Policy Director Matt DePaolis. “This means less nutrient pollution in our river, cleaner water in our estuaries, and a lowered risk of devastating algal blooms.”
While the EAA Reservoir is great news for the Everglades, the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, and all of South Florida, the sugar industry alleges that it poses a direct threat.
“Their complex and erroneous legal reasoning relies on a misinterpretation of the ‘water savings clause’ contained within the Water Resources Development Act,” explains DePaolis.
The sugar industry plaintiffs claim the reservoir will deprive them of water they feel they are owed from when water available to agricultural interests was reduced in 2008 after the adoption of the current Lake Okeechobee management plan, LORS08.
“Yet, in the 14 years since the reduction — which was made to reduce stress on the Herbert Hoover Dike and to protect the communities surrounding Lake Okeechobee — the sugar industry only experienced water cutbacks in one year, when the harvest yield was still above average,” he adds.