"A more than two-year odyssey of legal fights and political battles over buying U.S. Sugar farmland for Everglades restoration may ultimately prove easier than actually putting the land to use.
The South Florida Water Management District on Tuesday is finally set to close the deal with U.S. Sugar for 26,800 acres that will cost South Florida property taxpayers $197 million.
But even after the last page of the deal is signed, significant hurdles remain — and more costs are in store — before the district can start using the land to help restore clean water flows to the Everglades.
Pesticides and other pollutants embedded in the soil after decades of farming must be cleaned up, with the district and South Florida taxpayers picking up more than half of the estimated $7 million tab.
U.S. Sugar rail lines may have to be removed and rebuilt at taxpayers' expense, potentially costing another $2 million.
In addition, American Indians remains and historic sites are suspected to dot the U.S. Sugar land, requiring the district to work with the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes to minimize potential disturbances and document any finds."