Sugar Hill Sector Plan/Airglades Airport’s Location and How it Affects the Indian River Lagoon

Sugar Hill Sector Plan and Airglades Airport's location in reference to Lake Okeechobee, (Maps, iPhone, 2014.)
Sugar Hill Sector Plan and Airglades Airport’s location in reference to Lake Okeechobee, (Maps, iPhone, 2014.)

Since last week, you may have seen press on “Sugar Hill and Airglades Airport,” a land use change proposal located in Hendry County southwest of Lake Okeechobee. This is a highly controversial, approximately 67 square miles, of present “farmland” that could change to residential, (up to 18,000 homes), and commercial lands, built around an airport that is already in place with the potential to expand.

Just for comparison, the Airglades Airport runway is 5900 feet long while Witham Airport’s in Stuart is 5800 according to my husband Ed. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airglades_Airport)

Anyway, this morning I do not have time to debate this issue in detail, but I will say of course that it is a true “game changer.” I wanted to SHOW where these lands are located in reference to lands that are still available for purchase by the state of Florida due to an option you may have heard of as well.

If purchased, these “option” lands would be key in Everglades restoration from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades and restoring some pathetic remnant of its historic flow.

Presently, the state does not want to buy these lands because politicians claim there is no money to maintain them and if they were bought the lands will just end up “sitting there,” at great expense until a possible time they could be utilized in the future, like 2060.

This argument may sound “reasonable” but in order to save the Everglades and the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, purchasing these lands is critical and should be done “now” because if these lands are not purchased “now,” as the Sugar Hill Sector Plan shows, their land use could be changed  and then the lands will be too expensive for the state to ever purchase. Market value for agricultural lands is less than residential. Sometimes life demands you spend money now to save in the future.

So, just so we know where we are talking about, where are these Sugar Hill and Airglades lands located? See map below.

Airglades Airport and the Sugar Hill Sector plan are located south west of Clewiston by about five miles on the west side of Lake O along Hwy. 27.
Airglades Airport and the Sugar Hill Sector plan are located south west of Clewiston by about five miles on the west side of Lake O along Hwy. 27.

They are located on Highway 27 west of Clewiston. Highway 27 runs through the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee connecting both coasts. The Airglades Airport and Sugar Hill Sector Proposal are located right before the highway shoots north. See red dots above and below. The 67 square miles of Sugar Hill Proposed Sector lands are “around” the airport. I do not know exactly where, but I would think mostly south.

At closer view, one can see the Airglades Airport  amongst the sugar fields.
At closer view, one can see the Airglades Airport amongst the sugar fields.

Now if we look at a partial map of the option lands we can see that the Airglades Airport and Sugar Hill Sector Proposal are located in lands that were designated for purchase to one day benefit Everglades restoration for posterity. (Dark green is of “most importance” and yellow is of “importance,” both are option lands…)

Map showing option lands close to Clewiston.
Map showing option lands close to Clewiston.

Overall EAA option lands:

Option Lands marked for purchase for Everglades restoration under former gov. Charlie Crist. The deal fell apart due to politics and the financial crisis of  2008--a much smaller land purchase ensued.
Option Lands marked for purchase for Everglades restoration under former Gov. Charlie Crist. The deal fell apart due to politics and the financial crisis of 2008–a much smaller land purchase ensued.

OK…so how would this fit into the Plan 6, River of Grass restoration? Please keep in mind Plan 6 and all “plans” are fluid as they have not happened yet…The amount of water we are talking about it almost beyond comprehension and requires great areas of land beyond lines on a sheet of paper. So even though this Plan 6 chart concentrates flow between the Miami and New River Canals the lands west of this area where Sugar Hill would be located are part of the overall restoration plan for this area as we can tell from the option lands maps above.

Plan 6.
Plan 6.
Plan 6, River of Grass.
Plan 6 flow, River of Grass.

In conclusion, and to repeat myself:  all the lands marked as option lands are important for the overall Everglades/Northern Estuaries restoration project. The Sugar Hill Sector Plan, if successful, is setting a precedent for changes in agricultural land use in Florida. There may be no turning back on this at this point as the Scott Administration gutted the Department of Community Affairs  that used to keep such land use changes in check.  As usual the state of Florida has put development  before restoration of natural lands and water’s protection.

When Florida’s future waters are  just one big toxic algae bloom, and people do not want to live here, I wonder if some of our politicians will wish they had voted another way? Oh but they will be dead like me, so I guess it doesn’t matter….

It does matter. It matters almost more than anything in the world. Please make your voice known and let’s leave something to the children of the future other than cookie cutter homes.

_________________________

Tampa Bay Times Article, Sugar Hill: (http://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/us-sugar-plans-development-on-land-florida-wanted-for-everglades/2196332)

17 thoughts on “Sugar Hill Sector Plan/Airglades Airport’s Location and How it Affects the Indian River Lagoon

  1. Hi Jacqui! I was writing about this yesterday ( Sunday when I read the Sierra Club’s information about this and I was so upset and outraged) , just now I called a friend of mine who is a long time resident of Martin County who is a Republican who has told me he isn’t voting for governor because he doesn’t like Christ and he will not vote for Scott, he did the same in the last election. I read your blog to him , I plead with him , I said if you do not vote for Christ, you ARE voting for Scott. This is how he got into office last time and you did not vote for governor! You call yourself a conservationist this is the most important issue for our STATE! For our Home! We need every person Democrat and Republican who is holding their noses and saying they will not vote for Christ because he is not a real Democrat or he is a flip flopper or what ever else they want to call him to vote for him , not to let Scott get into office again. I said Christ did not do this damage to our environment when he was our governor and I reminded him he did vote for him twice . He promised he would read , I don’t know if he will vote for him but he listened.

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    1. In response your comment, pjoy17, I am reminded of something my grandmother told me:
      “There are two ways of voting, Number One, voting. Number two, not voting, and thereby allowing someone whose values are the opposite of yours to have their vote counted double.”

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  2. Shared the link.
    This reeks of money grabbing opportunism! Is any of this part of the US Sugar land holdings that Scott didn’t buy last year when the State had the option to purchase the 153,209 acres at $7,400 an acre? Or is it just another example of short term greed over long term environmental stewardship?

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    1. The same destructive overdrainage that created and maintained the EAA would need to be retained in order to develop Sugar Hill, or Sugar Kill. That would cause the same horrific discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee.

      Plus, I think everyone sees that the Sugar Hill scheme is just a ploy to try to puff up the land prices. There’s no genuine demand for land out in those boondocks.

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  3. This is a ploy to increase local panic and falsely boost land purchase price, I believe. We need our candidates to speak up on all these land deals in their debates to solidify a hold on the next term and our ability to secure all we can. Passing Amendment #1 couldn’t hurt.

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  4. Great post, Jacqui. We need to stop this Sugar Hill plan and buy the land right now. This show how important it is that we act immediately; if we wait, we’ll be stuck with discharges forever.

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    1. If the land price goes up, it is on Rick Scott. He had a chance to buy at $7,400/acre a year ago and ignored it. He abolished the Dept of Community Affairs, which surely wouldn’t have allowed such astoundingly bad sprawl directly in the former River of Grass. The least he could do is use the power of his office to put the brakes on it now before we have to choose between enriching US Sugar even more than we already do, or lock in the discharges forever.

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