The first news release in this post is from U S Sugar Corporation. The release that follows in this post is from the Florida Governor’s office:
CLEWISTON â€” November 12, 2008 â€” Negotiations between the South Florida Water Management District and management of U.S. Sugar concerning the purchase of the real property of U.S. Sugar have successfully concluded and the terms of an agreement have been reached. A final contract must be considered and approved by U.S. Sugarâ€™s Board of Directors and the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). If approved by the two respective boards, they will be signed in early December. Terms of the pending contract include the sale of U.S. Sugarâ€™s real estate properties, (approximately 181,000 acres), for $1.34 billion and a lease-back of the land for $50 per acre, for a period covering seven crop cycles. The sugar mill, refinery and citrus processing facilities, railroads, office buildings, equipment and the Gilchrist County citrus nursery will remain the property of U.S. Sugar.
â€œAfter months of negotiations it became clear that the best transaction was for the state to buy the land and for U.S. Sugar to keep the assets. This is a good deal for the state, U.S. Sugar and for our shareholders,â€ said Robert Coker, senior vice president of public affairs for U.S. Sugar.
â€œThe SFMWD is able to purchase all of the land necessary to proceed with Everglades restoration at a cost less than originally anticipated, since additional company assets are not included in the agreement. The company is able to continue farming and ensure that jobs are safeguarded for the next seven years,â€ Coker said.
The SFWMD purchase of 181,000 acres of land (about 285 square miles located in environmentally strategic areas) will help resolve restoration issues for Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries and the Everglades. Sufficient land also will be available for critical water storage and treatment. This acquisition should allow remaining Everglades Agricultural Area farmers and the Everglades to be sustainable well into the future.
Consistent with the original statement of principles of the sale to the State, U.S. Sugar will continue to operate all of its businesses as usual for a period covering seven crop cycles. This will enable the Company to fulfill its long-term existing business obligations. During this transition period, BMO Capital Markets Corporation will continue to act as financial advisor to U.S. Sugar.
â€œAt the end of seven crops, we will either continue to operate the facilities or sell them based on the best interests of our shareholders,â€ Coker said.
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Governor Crist Celebrates Everglades Land Negotiations
~Land-only deal will save taxpayers hundreds of millions and allow state to restore River of Grass~
MIAMI â€“ Governor Charlie Crist today, continuing his commitment to restore the Everglades, announced that Florida water management officials have agreed to new terms in their negotiations with the United States Sugar Corporation. The new terms, subject to approval by the South Florida Water Management District include a land only purchase of more than 180,000 acres at a purchase price of $1.34 billion.
â€œA land purchase creates unprecedented possibilities for the River of Grass and for our environment,â€ said Governor Crist, standing outside the Miami home of the late author and Everglades advocate Marjory Stoneman Douglass. â€œMany people, including the late Mrs. Douglass, have looked forward to this day. Today, we are closer than ever to making their dreams a reality and giving this wonderful gift of restoration to the Everglades, to the people of Florida, and to our country.â€
The 180,000 acres, one of the largest environmental land acquisitions in our nation’s history, are the â€œmissing linkâ€ that the South Florida Water Management District needs to protect Floridaâ€™s coastal estuaries and better revive, restore and preserve one of Americaâ€™s greatest natural treasures â€“ the Everglades. Governor Crist first announced in June plans to begin negotiations at the 2008 Serve to Preserve Florida Summit on Global Climate in Miami.
The vast real estate â€“ roughly the size of New York City — will be used to reestablish a part of the historic connection between Lake Okeechobee and the fabled River of Grass through a managed system of storage and treatment. The land also will be used to safeguard the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and estuaries.
Acquiring the enormous expanse of land offers water managers the opportunity and flexibility to store and clean water on a scale never before contemplated. Water managers expect that dedicating significantly more land in the Everglades Agricultural Area to restoration will build upon and enhance the 30-year state-federal Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the State of Floridaâ€™s Northern Everglades program to restore and protect Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and their respective estuaries.
â€œWe look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and the District in the cooperative spirit with which we have begun,â€ said Robert Buker, president and CEO of U.S. Sugar. â€œWe are happy to help the state of Florida restore one of her most precious treasures.â€
Joining Governor Crist and Robert Buker today at the Marjory Stoneman Douglass House were Eric Buermann, Chairman of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board; and Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole. Also in attendance were elected officials and environmental advocates.
Benefits from the land acquisition include:
Â· Huge increases in the availability of water storage, significantly reducing the potential for harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to Floridaâ€™s coastal rivers and estuaries when lake levels are high.
Â· The ability to deliver cleaner water to the Everglades during dry times and greater water storage to protect the natural system during wet years.
Â· Preventing thousands of tons of phosphorus from entering the Everglades every year.
Â· Forever eliminating the need for â€œback-pumpingâ€ water into Lake Okeechobee from the Everglades Agricultural Area to augment the water supply needs. The Districtâ€™s Governing Board this year voted not to back-pump into the lake during the ongoing water shortage to protect water quality.
Â· Additional water storage alternatives, relieving some pressures on the Herbert Hoover Dike while the federal government undertakes repairs.
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