Peace may finally be at hand in the decades-long Everglades dirty-water war.
Eight months after Gov. Rick Scott flew to Washington to extend a political olive branch and personally pitch Florida’s latest plan for stopping the flow of polluted farm, ranch and yard runoff into the Everglades, state and federal negotiators are on the verge of an accord expected to be hailed by both sides as a major milestone.
A settlement crafted with the goal of resolving two protracted and paralyzing federal lawsuits — one goes back almost a quarter century, the other eight years — could be soon finalized, possibly within the month, according to officials on both sides of the confidential negotiations.
The agreement would commit Florida to a significantly expanded slate of Everglades restoration projects pegged at an estimated $890 million. Still, that’s a considerably smaller price tag than a $1.5 billion plan drawn up by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that a Miami federal judge has threatened to impose.
Most key technical issues — such as the size of additional artificial marshes used to scrub dirty, nutrient-laced storm runoff that has poisoned vast swaths of the Everglades — have been largely sorted out. But both sides cautioned the deal could still be delayed as negotiators work through the nuts and bolts of rolling out, implementing and enforcing a complex and likely controversial agreement.