Will Eminent Domain be used to seize your land?
The South Florida Water Management District recently made a sound decision to not pay as much as $700,000,000 for 46,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee for purposes of constructing a 26,000 acre reservoir to feed water into the Estuaries south of the Lake and into the Everglades. The SFWMD decided the project would produce too little water at too great a cost. As the Palm Beach Post put it in an editorial, “But ultimately, we believe that history may show the water district made the right decision, because, in the end, the details really did matter. The purchase apparently would have cost far more than contemplated, accomplished far less, and encumbered the resources needed to more quickly solve the system’s most pressing environmental problems.”
Enter Senator Thad Altman. He’s always been a reasonable legislator friend to the Tea Party. Now though, for reasons that are difficult to understand, Senator Altman has announced he will push an amendment to the state’s Budget that would grab $45 million and direct the state to borrow $450 million to buy up unspecified private land south of Lake Okeechobee — and create new powers of eminent domain the government could use to just seize that land from owners if they don’t want to sell. Supposedly this unspecified land would be used to construct a reservoir. No land owner south of Lake Okeechobee would be safe from just having the government seize their land! It’s not clear under Senator Altman’s Amendment who would chose what land–but it is clear the land would be taken even if the owner refuses to sell!
Yes, you read that correctly. The Senator wants to burden Floridians with hundreds of millions of dollars of new debt, take private property, even from unwilling sellers, and authorize a land grab that will do little to restore the Everglades or improve water quality in critical estuaries. It’s just not the Altman we know.
Experts, including those managing the Everglades restoration program, agree that the solution to Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries water quality lies north of the Lake–not south. Altman’s amendment would force us to borrow millions to seize land from private property owners in the wrong place! Only a reservoir north of the Lake would serve to increase water flow in the Lake, the estuaries and the Everglades.
The government already owns 25% of the land mass in Florida–the most of any state east of the Mississippi. Before we buy any new land we need to know the true cost and viable use. The US Sugar land south of the lake proved to be both too expensive and the portion that could be used for a reservoir too small. As the Palm Beach Post put it “The U.S. Sugar land couldn’t be bought in pieces, a problem since it was not contiguous, and only parts were ideal for restoration. The biggest and most useful part of the land could be made into a functional reservoir, staff said, but at an ultimate cost of $2.5 billion. If the reservoir was able to hold 4 feet of water, it would accept 84,000 acre feet of water from the lake; and that would help lower the lake a little. But a recent study projected that 1 million acre feet of water storage is needed south of the lake.”
Senator Altman’s legislation is nothing more than a stunning big government land grab. Plain and simple. It isn’t based on science. It’s based on politics.
Disturbingly, powerful special interests have found a friend in Senator Altman, and convinced him to propose legislation to increase debt, seize private property and add unnecessary land to the state’s already-ample real estate holdings. It just doesn’t make sense. More important, it must be stopped.
Time is short. Call Altman at 850-487-5016 and let Senate Leaders (click here) know that adding hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and expanding the state’s power to seize private land are simply wrong — especially in the name of an ill-advised land grab at a location that will have little impact on our water quality.
Floridians from the Treasure Coast to the Panhandle understand the importance of restoring the Everglades, increasing water flow to the estuaries and cleaning Lake Okeechobee to protect our water. But they also understand that we can do those things at the right location without throwing property rights out the window and borrowing the money to do it.