South Florida Environmentalists Say Sale of Any Water District Lands Is a Dumb Idea

​The South Florida agency charged with securing water -- the stuff that makes your shampoo foamy -- for future generations has been having a tough time lately.

Rick Scott and the GOP-led Legislature capped property taxes the district could collect. Layoffs of scientists and other staffers numbered in the hundreds. Now, the district is proposing a selloff of a few thousand acres of district land, and environmental groups are not pleased.

Regional Sierra Club representative John Ullman said sale of any state lands is wrong.

"We're opposed to this selloff," he said. "It's unspeakable."

He said if lawmakers really cared whether the 

district had enough revenue, it wouldn't have required a tax cap. They also wouldn't be proposing the sale when the land is dirt cheap.

"For them to have a fire sale when these lands are pennies on the dollar -- it's a giveaway to developers," he said.

South Florida Water Management District spokesman Randy Smith said it's not a big deal; it's possible surplus land that's potentially on the chopping block.

"We've already conducted a review of the lands," he said. "These are lands that were once viewed as critical to the district's mission."

This includes 85 acres west of Delray Beach that's being used as a racehorse training facility.

Ullman said every bit of space in Florida that has managed to escape development up to this point should be kept out of the hands of those who want to keep the sprawl going. Those lands, he said, are vital wildlife habitat, a means of aquifer recharge, and a way for Floridians to escape civilization once in a while.

"Every piece of land that's not developed has value," he said.

The proposal is currently under review, and Smith said the SFWMD governing board probably won't make a final decision on it until December.

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Kate Bradshaw