In 1992 a decree was signed that set thresholds for the amount of phosphorous in the Everglades. Phosphorous, an ingredient in fertilizer from sugar growers, and it is well known to promote unhealthy plant growth.

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWM) has been fighting the order for years, stating it is outdated and thwarts projects that would benefit the Everglades, as well as being superseded by subsequent state and federal laws that guarantee the restoration would continue.

Among U. S. District Judge Federico Moreno reasons for rejecting the motion were, that the governing board has been replaced by Governor Ron DeSantis, who has made the environment a top priority. He also said the matter required a full evidentiary hearing on the complicated scientific and environmental issues. “This is the right thing to do at this time,” Moreno said at the hearing. And questioned, “There’s really no harm, is there?” The order does allow for the water district to file the motion again in the future.

Brian Accardo, attorney for the water board said, “Twenty-seven years is enough. It’s enough because it’s unnecessary.” But the U. S. government, various environmental groups as well as the Miccosukee Indian tribe all disagree. They believe that the decree is a key to pursuing potential violations and ensuring the cleanup projects get built. Believing that if you keep the decree in place until the Everglades has achieved an environmental balance, it will return to its historical makeup.

In 1998 the U. S. filed a lawsuit against the water district claiming high phosphorous discharges were threatening the long-term future of the Everglades. Out of that lawsuit, the decree arose, and applied to both federal and state entities. Two of the goals were to reduce phosphorous and the water levels at the right times. In doing both of these, they would keep the ecosystem healthy. The state and water district have always contended that the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers are equally responsible for moving the polluted water into the area.

Currently, about $2 billion has been spent on different Everglades projects, and there is another $1 billion in the pipeline over the next four years. Charles DeMonaco, attorney for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said, “The state would also like to see the consent decree end, but only when there is an agreement on how success would be measured. We don’t want to fight anyone. We want to end it.”

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