U.S. Water News Online
MIAMI -- Over the objections of government officials, a
federal judge is willing to hear more about claims by the Miccosukee
Indian tribe that the state is missing deadlines for Everglades
State and federal attorneys argued against delving more deeply
into the jointly funded work. But U.S. District Judge William
Hoeveler has agreed to hear testimony this summer on the government's
dispute with the tribe.
``That's a major threshold,'' Dexter Lehtinen, attorney for the
tribe living in the Everglades, said of the decision.
The state already says it is unlikely to meet a key deadline in
2006 for pollution reduction, and Lehtinen argues it already has
failed to meet some deadlines.
``They're continuing to load polluted water into the Everglades
and not committing the research and financial resources necessary to
solve it,'' Lehtinen said outside court. ``They need to put more
money into it, and they need to hold water back when they can't clean
Justice Department attorney Neal McAliley acknowledged there are
problems but disputed statements made by both Lehtinen and farm
interests around Lake Okeechobee, a primary water and pollution
source for the Everglades.
McAliley wanted the judge to stay on the sidelines in the federal
lawsuit, filed against the state by Lehtinen when he was U.S.
attorney in 1988. A consent decree closed the case, but it can be
reopened if the decree is violated. The judge receives regular
``We have phosphorus still going into the Everglades that is
probably less than healthy for it,'' McAliley said. ``We have not
cleaned up the Everglades yet, and we have a process going forward.''
Phosphorus from farms and suburbs is the primary polluter. The
fertilizer ingredient spurs growth that drives out the Everglades'
natural low-nutrient plants, and that, in turn, changes the wildlife
President Bush and his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, signed an agreement
in January to guarantee clean water for a major restoration project.
The blueprint envisions spending $7.8 billion over 30 years to
restore about 2.4 million acres of the shallow marsh ecosystem. The
state is committed to spending $763 million.
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