Sentinel , April 13, 1997
The Everglades restoration wobbled forward on Wednesday- not very far, but forward.
Water managers, after much debate, unanimously agreed to tell contractors to start building the smallest of six filtering marshes needed to intercept dirty farm runoff flowing into the Everglades.
They authorized the installation of plumbing that would steer dirty drainage water into a second cleanup marsh, west of Loxahatchee near 20-Mile Bend.
But bowing to pressure from state legislators, the South Florida Water Management District governing board refused to accept a federal permit with controversial provisions authorizing construction of other key cleanup marshes and mechanisms.
Instead board members voted to try mediation as a way to settle their disputes about the permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other federal agencies. In the meantime, they will begin work on parts of the project not in dispute.
Too many permit conditions clash with a 1994 state law guiding the restoration, said board members.
"I think our Tallahassee bosses have made it clear to us we must stay within the framework of the Everglades Forever Act," said board member Eugene Pettis. The act, approved in 1994, sets a timetable for building filter marshes and a formula for financing the work.
If mediation fails, the issue could bounce to U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler. The judge may or may not agree with the district but would be empowered to give it final marching orders with regards to the permit, said the district's chief attorney, Barbara Markham.
While board members embraced the mediation route recommended by Markham, some opposed a proposal that they formally stick to the state's restoration schedule- even if it requires borrowing millions of dollars.
After much bickering, they voted only to uphold the Everglades Forever Act mandates.
The motion they approved avoided any mention of borrowing money, a step that district budget expert Joe Moore said appeared unavoidable.
The district is short $80 million it needs to keep construction of 40,000 acres of filter marshes proceeding under a 1994 state law's timetable.