Sugar growers in Florida are suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Florida – According to the federal lawsuits filed this week by Florida Crystals’ Okeelanta Corp., U.S. Sugar, and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative says the current Corps plan won’t supply enough water for their fields.
“Farmers need a secure supply of water, and all farmers need certainty as we plan and manage our planting schedules and crop rotation,” said Jaime Vega, vice president of agriculture at Florida Crystals.
According to Jacksonville Commander Col. Andrew Kelly, the agency will balance water supply for both the environment and farmers.
“We go through a very, very deliberate process, not only with our (environmental) analysis but with all of the analysis it takes to figure out the best infrastructure to be put in the ground in the right place,” he said. “So we’re pretty confident that the infrastructure plan that we have going forward is a good one.”
The project in question is the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir intended to cleanse tainted water so more can flow south as crucially needed toward Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
In the lawsuits, Sugar Growers say the still-under-construction reservoir should be kept at higher water levels than what is currently envisioned in a Corps of Engineers plan. Acording to Everglades restoration advocates, the growers are simply putting their priorities ahead of others.
“They have always been at the front of the line and now they are not happy with how the lake and the reservoir will be operated in a more equitable way,” said Eric Eikenberg, chief executive officer at the Everglades Foundation.
The lawsuits pending in West Palm Beach federal court ask a judge to order the Corps to return to a reservoir plan guaranteeing a greater water supply.