There’s a myth--really a lie--that we need to set straight right now: “willing sellers.”
Almost a year ago, before the EAA reservoir bill switched to locating the project on public property, US Sugar and Florida Crystals shouted themselves hoarse that they weren’t willing to sell land. But no one had asked them to sell any. That idea was written out of the bill long before Rick Scott signed it.
No one is asking the sugar industry to sell land today, either.
It’s true that the reservoir plan needs more land for filter marshes, because its benefit to the estuaries and the Everglades is limited by the proposed project footprint. But that footprint can be expanded--and the project can stop more discharges to our rivers and send more clean water to the Everglades--without buying private land.
So what Florida taxpayers are asking the Fanjul and Mott families is much simpler than to become willing sellers. We’re asking them to get off our land.
Our land. Governor Scott and his cabinet--the trustees of Florida’s Internal Improvement Trust Fund--lease nearly 14,000 acres of taxpayer-owned land in the Everglades Agricultural Area to industrial growers. The terms are cheap, no competitive bids. Mostly a giveaway of taxpayer property, mostly paid for with government handouts. But now we need that property back to protect our economy, public health and safety, a national park and world heritage site, and our water.
So we don’t need willing sellers but we do need those leases terminated, just like the law says, and we need those companies to vacate. Now. Also, we need those 4,000 acres of taxpayer-owned US Sugar prison-labor land, especially now that the prisoners have been kicked off it.
We could also use more honesty from state employees at SFWMD. When district spokespeople look you in the eye and say, “We terminated all our leases,” they’re telling a child’s half-truth, talking only about district-held leases, pretending to forget about all those other state leases. They know better.
After those leases are cancelled, sugar vacates, and the free ride ends, maybe the companies will be willing to swap some land? Trade property near the reservoir site for more productive farmland? Help our engineers find more land to clean the reservoir’s water and send more of it south and less of it into the rivers? Help taxpayers get the best value for a $2 billion clean water investment?
Either way the “willing seller” myth is false. It’s already our land. We just need them off it.