Over early morning coffee last week, this native Floridian avidly read three articles regarding the future of our state’s beloved “River of Grass”—the Everglades. Published in the Summer 2010 edition of The Journal of The James Madison Institute, these articles probe the murky depths of the U.S. Sugar Deal.

JMI Policy Director Bob Sanchez’s personal and professional memoirs of the Everglades, from fishing trips with his son on Lake Okeechobee to interviews with Marjory Stoneman Douglas, set the stage for the pro/con articles to follow. Bob rightly points out that efforts to restore what remains of the original Everglades need to proceed in order to protect water resources as well as critical ecological resources. However, in the current fiscal environment, funding the U.S. Sugar deal AND continuing existing projects started under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) would be mutually exclusive.

PRO VIEWPOINT by Thom Rumberger: The U.S. Sugar deal would provide the State of Florida with 180,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee. Large tracts of land for water storage and treatment are needed to permanently preserve and restore the Everglades, and the lack of such has limited all previous efforts resulting in a patchwork of smaller, less effective projects.

CON VIEWPOINT by Michael Collins: The U.S. Sugar deal has no completed plan or funding for restoration, excludes potentially useful land owned by other companies, overcharges taxpayers based on land values from the height of the real estate boom, compromises the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) ability to fulfill its core mission of water supply and flood control, and eliminates the availability of SFWMD funds for other worthwhile environmental and water projects for decades.

I read Rumberger’s Pro-Sugar Deal article first, and it sounded like a pretty good proposal . . . until I read Collins’ Con-Sugar Deal! At the very least, this is an exceedingly murky situation, and Floridians should demand a lot more transparency and clarity before the deal is done!