River of Grass Ends: SFWMD terminates option on U.S. Sugar holdings

Former Governor Charlie Crist’s “River of Grass” dream ended quietly last week when the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board terminated the state’s option on 153,209 acres of U.S. Sugar’s holdings. Without this action, the option agreement would have expired Oct. 11, 2020.

At the Dec. 13 meeting of the SFWMD Governing Board, Brian Accardo, SFWMD general counsel, said this option agreement was specifically named in Senate Bill 10. Florida Statute 373.4598 entitled “Water Storage Reservoirs” required the SFWMD to terminate the option agreement with U.S. Sugar Corporation provided in the Aug. 12, 2010 contract if U.S. Sugar requested it and the post-authorization change report for the Everglades Agricultural Area (“EAA”) Reservoir received congressional approval. Congress approved the post-authorization change report in October 2018. U.S. Sugar has submitted a letter dated Nov. 29, 2018, requesting that the district terminate the option.

SFWMD Governing Board Member Brandon Tucker said at fair market value, the cost would be around $2 billion. “Where on earth would we even come up with this money?” he asked.