By Bill Mattox, JMI Resident Fellow
I took an air boat ride into the Everglades for the first time several weeks ago. I’ve always had a curiosity about Florida’s famous “river of grass” – and this curiosity has been heightened recently as I’ve been reading about the infamous swamp land deal U.S. Sugar struck with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.Several things pleasantly surprised me about our air boat ride. We encountered no mosquitoes. We had a tour guide who was, at times, even funnier than Bobby Boucher (the swamp-dwelling hero of Adam Sandler’s “The Waterboy”). And we encountered no rank smells from the not-as-stagnant-as-I-had-imagined swamp water.I keep hoping that the U.S. Sugar deal will, at some point, offer some equally-pleasant surprises. Because I’d like to believe that Gov. Crist has been looking out for the best interests of our state.
But the more I learn about the U.S. Sugar deal, the more it smells rank or fishy to me. Among the questions I’m having a hard time answering are these:
Why did the state choose to prioritize land acquisition over water reclamation projects? Shouldn’t we be cleaning up the Everglades water – and providing “green jobs”—rather than socking away land that will sit idle (and dirty) for years to come?
Why didn’t the state purchase the most strategically-valuable land for healthy water flow – even if that meant buying from other landowners – rather than doing a “sweetheart deal” with U.S. Sugar only?
Do most Floridians realize that this land purchase will leave the state with little or no funds for water reclamation projects, thereby delaying this much-needed environmental work?
Maybe there are good answers to these questions. If so, I’d love to hear them. Because from where I sit, this U.S. Sugar land deal looks about as ominous as the alligators I saw swimming in the Everglades.