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FL - Farmers earn support from current, former officials in legal battle against Army Corps of Engineers

"Hopefully this will force the Corps to follow federal law."

Multiple current and former elected officials are praising a lawsuit filed last week by South Florida farmers, which argues the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is ignoring federal law in its planning process for the Comprehensive Everglades Planning Project (CEPP).

The CEPP is a part of the broader Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). U.S. Sugar, the Okeelanta Corporation, and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida filed separate complaints in the U.S. District Court arguing a portion of the CEPP plan violates the 2000 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The Okeelanta Corporation is a subsidiary of Florida Crystals.

At issue is the A-2 section of CEPP, which includes a stormwater treatment area and a reservoir. The complaints argue the Army Corps plan keeps water levels in that area too low, which violates a provision of WRDA 2000 known as the “savings clause.” Those levels would not allow an adequate water supply for their farmland, the lawsuits argue.

The plaintiffs say they’re not trying to stop the construction of the A-2 section, which is still ongoing. Rather, they’re looking for the Army Corps to establish a plan where those water levels are kept higher. Former Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Herschel Vinyard does not consider this lawsuit a roadblock to completing the EAA reservoir or any other CERP project.

“I am thrilled that the plaintiffs took care to file a narrowly tailored lawsuit which does not interfere with the ongoing construction of any Everglades projects or disrupt the state’s tremendous progress in the Everglades that has been made over the last decade,” Vinyard said.

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