Captains Urges Big Sugar To Drop Reservoir Lawsuit

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Three industrial sugarcane corporations filed a lawsuit in 2021 against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the design and intended use of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir. Captains for Clean Water has launched a campaign to get Big Sugar to drop that lawsuit.

The EAA Reservoir is intended to provide relief to south Florida’s water quality crisis by restoring the natural Everglades flow south. Expected to be complete and operational in 2030, the reservoir will store excess Lake Okeechobee water, clean it to federal standards and move it south through the Everglades and into Florida Bay at the proper timing, volume and distribution needed

In doing so, the reservoir will help maintain the lake at lower, healthier levels; restore the ecology of the Everglades; balance salinities in Florida Bay; recharge the aquifer that provides drinking water for millions of Floridians; and mitigate the harmful lake discharges that devastate Florida’s economy and coastal ecosystems.
The lawsuit, filed by United States Sugar Corporation, Okeelanta Corporation (Florida Crystals), and The Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, claims they are owed a specific amount of public water for irrigation from Lake Okeechobee and that the EAA Reservoir could serve exclusively to fulfill that demand—rather than what the project was designed for to restore the Everglades and reduce harmful discharges.

Last year, the sugar industry’s case was ruled against by a federal judge who, in his ruling, cited arguments from the “friends of the court” brief submitted by Everglades Law Center, Captains For Clean Water and seven other organizations opposing the lawsuit.
In response, the three companies, collectively known as “Big Sugar,” filed an appeal and the case is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Currently, the public is awaiting the court’s decision on whether oral arguments will be heard. The timing of that decision is unknown.

In a Thursday press release, Captains for Clean Water stated that if Big Sugar is successful in the lawsuit, they could push to use the EAA Reservoir as their personal taxpayer-funded water supply, “upending years of restoration progress and sealing the fate of Florida’s future to include more damaging coastal discharges, more toxic algal blooms, and more economic and environmental peril.”

The 501c3 organization went on to state that as the sugar industry publicly promotes support of Everglades restoration, their historical patterns continue to contradict that sentiment. “This lawsuit directly threatens the single-most important restoration project that represents a sustainable solution benefiting the economy, the environment, and the quality of life for Florida’s residents and visitors.

Captains For Clean Water has launched a public movement urging Big Sugar to drop their lawsuit over the EAA Reservoir. CFCW is rallying the public to sign their petition. Learn more about the lawsuit and check out the petition HERE.

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