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Judge Urges Progress on Everglades Pollution Fixes

posted on January 13, 2012


MIAMI (AP) - A federal judge on Thursday urged federal and state
environmental officials to take real, concrete steps toward
reducing pollution in the Florida Everglades and move away from the
endless court battles that have stalled progress for more than two
decades.
     Saying he is committed to holding government's "feet to the
fire," U.S. District Judge Alan Gold pressed the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Florida to work
out the differences in competing Everglades restoration plans and
come up with a guaranteed way to pay for the costly work.
     "Elsewise, what we're doing is going around in circles, again,
trying to fine-tune something without the ability to implement
it," Gold said. "We ought to be able to state clearly what we can
do and can't do."
     The hearing was the latest of many in a lawsuit originally filed
in 2004 by the Miccosukee Indian tribe - whose reservation is in
the Everglades - claiming state and federal agencies have
repeatedly failed to enforce Clean Water Act standards in the vast
wetlands. An even older lawsuit over many of the same issues dates
to 1988.
     Last year under Gold's watch, the EPA proposed a new $1 billion
restoration plan focused on expanding huge manmade, buffering
marshes used to filter phosphorous from the water before it flows
into the Everglades. The phosphorous comes from fertilizer used on
farms such as sugar plantations and suburban yards, promoting
growth of unhealthy vegetation and choking out native plants.
     A few months later, Republican Gov. Rick Scott proposed an
alternative that the state's attorneys described Thursday as less
time-consuming and less costly. The EPA is reviewing that plan to
see if it meets federal water quality standards, even as the agency
tussles with the state over authority to issue water discharge
permits.
     "We want to get on with the business of restoring the
Everglades," said Christopher Kise, attorney for the state
Department of Environmental Protection. "We haven't lost any
momentum. To the contrary, we have gained momentum in the past
several months."
     Anyone who has followed the Everglades lawsuits has heard
similar sentiments before, usually with less-than-desirable
results. Paul Schwiep, attorney for the Friends of the Everglades,
noted that the state's new proposal came only after the EPA seemed
poised to take over much of the control of restoration following
orders issued last year by Gold.
     "We do have some skepticism about this, but we are willing to
talk," Schwiep said.


Tags: environment everglades Miami pollution