Everglades Forever Act - Fla. Stat. § 373.4592 (1994)

Overview
U.S. Sugar supported the Everglades Forever Act (EFA), which outlines the state’s commitment to restore the Everglades ecosystem with a focus on water quality and quantity improvements. The EFA works in conjunction with the federal government’s Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP), which has a focus on improving water delivery and timing within the ecosystem. U.S. Sugar also supports the federal restoration plan.

Everglades Forever Act The goals of EFA are to:
  1. improve Everglades water quality by reducing the level of phosphorus that enters the ecosystem;
  2. increase the quantity of water in the Everglades by restoring the hydrology; and
  3. restore and protect the native plants and animals by reducing the existence invasive exotic species of plants and animals.
The secondary goals of EFA include water resource development and supply, increased public access, public lands management and maintenance, and increased protection of land by acquisition of conservation easements.

The EFA legislated the use of on-farm Best Management Practices and the construction of several storm water treatment areas to reduce phosphorus levels in the water that reaches the Everglades.

Results of the 1994 EFA   2003 Amendment to the EFA

Results of the 1994 EFA
History has proven that the 1994 Everglades Forever Act has been extremely successful.
  • Water quality standards: Established a water quality standard for farm runoff that is twice as clean as rain and imposed on sugar farmers the most rigorous agricultural environmental regulations in the United States. Today, more than 90 percent of the entire Everglades Protection Area receives clean water that meets the water quality goals. In 2001, 73 percent of the phosphorus was removed from water leaving the Everglades-area farms with a three-year average of 50 percent reduction. The law only requires a 25 percent reduction.

  • Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs): Required farmers to contribute more than $232 million to construct 40,000 acres of filter marshes to treat runoff from both farm and urban communities. The 40,000 acres of converted farmland – about the size of the cities of Miami and Fort Lauderdale combined – are now are discharging water at levels between 20 parts per billion (ppb) and 35 ppb of phosphorus into areas that historically received concentrations as high as 200 ppb. These levels are expected to go even lower as the STAs mature and their technologies are optimized. Additional STAs are scheduled to come on line in the future.

  • BMP Program: Required farmers to pay 100 percent of the cost of removing the soil nutrients from farm water before it drains into canals that go south to the Everglades. Taxpayers do not pay to clean farm runoff.
    Established procedures to treat runoff from urban shopping malls, residential streets, commercial parking lots and businesses, which has four times the phosphorus concentrations of farm runoff and has been pouring, untreated, into the Everglades.

  • Wading birds: Down to 9,000 pair in 1994, have reached nearly 70,000 nesting pair for the first time since 1946.
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2003 Amendment to Everglades Forever Act (EFA)
In 2003, the Florida Legislature, by an overwhelming majority, passed amendments to the 1994 Everglades Forever Act. Following the remarkable success of Phase I of the Everglades Forever Act, these amendments provide the framework for Phase II and a road map for the future of Everglades Restoration.

Results of the 2003 EFA

Water Quality Standards
  • Upheld the integrity of the stringent 10 parts per billion (ppb) phosphorus standard proposed by the Department of Environmental Protection and required that the criterion be achieved at the earliest practicable date.
Everglades Agricultural Area Privilege Tax
  • Extended the existing Everglades Ag Privilege Tax ($25 per acre, $7.5 million per year) at the full rate for an additional three years beyond its scheduled expiration in 2013.

  • Provided that after the extension, the Ag Privilege Tax will continue indefinitely at the reduced rate of $10 per acre to support operations and maintenance of the cleanup program.

  • Provides that the existing South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) levy of no more than 0.1 mil of ad valorem revenue will be available, with other revenue including the Agricultural Privilege Tax, to fund the initial 13-year phase of the Long-Term Plan.
Long Term Plan:
  • Approved a new SFWMD construction and research schedule defined as the “Long-Term Plan” that includes all of the improvements to the existing Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) (nearly 42,000 acres) that scientists and engineers determined to be scientifically justified and technically feasible.

  • Directs integration of the Long-Term Plan with the larger State/Federal Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (“CERP”), which is not mentioned in the original 1994 law.

  • Provided a long-term plan for restoration that will be implemented for an initial 13-year phase (2003-2016) and will be reviewed by the Legislature at least 10 years after this first phase begins.

  • Allows for a second 10-year phase if approved by the Legislature and authorized by the EFA.

  • Required legislative review of the EFA and Long-Term Plan before the SFWMD can implement a second 10-year phase of the Plan.

  • Requires water quality improvements in the Long-Term Plan be integrated with Congressionally authorized components of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) to ensure consistency and reduce overall costs to the taxpayers without modifying any current state-federal cost sharing responsibilities for implementing CERP.
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