South Florida water district drops option to buy U.S. Sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee

WEST PALM BEACH — A plan to re-create the "River of Grass" between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades ended Thursday as the South Florida Water Management District board agreed to cancel its option to buy 153,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land.

The unanimous decision was a foregone conclusion: The state law authorizing construction of the EAA reservoir south of Lake O said if Congress authorized the project, which it did, then U.S. Sugar could be released from the contract, which was due to expire in October 2020.

Congress included the project in the Water Resources and Development Act signed by President Donald Trump in October.

"The law is the law, and we have to follow the law," said SFWMD board member Brandon Tucker of Palm City.

Tucker, who's in the agriculture real estate business, said buying the U.S. Sugar land at fair market would cost about $2 billion.

"Where in the world would we come up with that money?" he asked rhetorically.

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