A Stuart lawyer has filed a sweeping public records request with the University of Florida, seeking all documents related to a Lake Okeechobee water report being touted by proponents of a controversial land deal as a reason to by U.S. Sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee.
Attorney Lance Richard, who handles criminal defense and divorce cases, declined to comment on why he filed the report or how he intends to use it. Richard’s 7-page records request was made March 11, 2015 – ten days after the report was released.
The target of Richard’s request is a 143-page report entitled a Technical Review of Options to Move Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. The university’s Water Institute produced the report at the request of the Senate as part of its efforts determine ways to reduce harmful dumps of water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee River.
When the report was released on March 1, the Everglades Foundation issued a press release saying the report validated the foundation’s efforts to convince the South Florida Water Management District to purchase 46,800 acres of farmland south of Lake Okeechobee from U.S. Sugar.
The district’s option to buy the 46,800 acres expires on Oct. 12. The district has shown no interest in buying the land and U.S. Sugar, although compelled to do so under the contract, does not want to sell. The governor and other top lawmakers have said they prefer to see the district complete Everglades restoration projects already underway before buying land for more projects.
But the Everglades Foundation has persisted – sponsoring television lands and encouraging environmentalists who want to stop water from Lake Okeechobee from being dumped into the estuary and river. Fresh water from the lake and local stormwater runoff from roads yards and field, wreak ecological havoc in the delicate, brackish waterways.
Richard’s declined to comment on whether he had filed the request on behalf of a client. But his request is the second incident since March whose backers are unknown. On April 2 paid actors protested outside the district’s headquarters against the land deal. Most knew little about the land deal and nothing about who was paying the $75 they earned for shouting and holding signs.
As for the deal, the district’s governing board has not shut down the deal but strongly indicated at its meeting on April 9 that it preferred to finish restoration and storage projects already underway rather than purchasing new land for a project that does not yet exist.
In response to his records request, Richards said the university estimates gathering and copying records will cost $30,000. Richards said he may scale down his request in response.
Original article here.