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FARMERS PRESENT SWIM PLAN ALTERNATIVE THAT SAVES MILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND THOUSANDS OF JOBS

 FARMERS PRESENT SWIM PLAN ALTERNATIVE
 THAT SAVES MILLIONS OF DOLLARS AND THOUSANDS OF JOBS
 WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., April 7 /PRNewswire/ -- The Florida Sugar Cane League today unveiled a plan to immediately remove 125 tons of phosphorus nutrients from farm runoff going to the Everglades. League representatives announced that farmers will begin removing phosphorus from their runoff immediately, and is prepared to spend up to $30 million to jump start the phosphorus reduction.
 The sugar industry plan will be presented to the South Florida Water Management District Board on Thursday (April 9). It will be offered as an alternative to the District's intention to treat farm runoff by massive stormwater treatment areas, typically referred to as "STAs." The district's plan has been criticized, because of its more than $400 million expense and because it would lead to the loss of large numbers of jobs in agriculture and support industries. The League's plan is designed to protect the environment while saving jobs.
 The Florida Sugar Cane League represents more than 80 percent of Florida's sugar industry, which has an estimated $1.5 billion economic impact on South Florida.
 The heart of the League's plan is an innovative system of free market restoration credits, modeled after the credits in the Federal Clean Air Act for cleaning acid rain.
 The plan calls for government to set target levels of phosphorus that could be sent to the Water Conservation Areas near the Everglades. The government would then issue "Everglades Restoration Credits" to all sources of phosphorus in the region. Each landowner would be allowed to put one pound of phosphorus into a public canal per credit. Farmers would be allowed to trade their credits or use them.
 According to industry sources, the credit system creates a win-win situation for the environment and the economy. The environment wins because phosphorus in runoff is limited to the number of credits the government distributes in a given year. The economy wins because farmers have an incentive to find the least expensive way to clean up phosphorus.
 The industry estimates that restoration credits will enable cleaning up runoff for less than one-tenth the cost of STAs, resulting in no jobs lost.
 The League also presented alternative methods for reducing phosphorus, to demonstrate how landowners could make use of Everglades Restoration Credits. On Thursday the League will ask the Water Management District to work with agricultural interests on the alternatives.
 Additionally, the League will ask the board to move ahead with the system of spreader canals south of the agricultural area so as to restore a more natural flow of water to the Everglades. It also will propose more emphasis on efforts to remove melaleuca and other exotic species that are crowding out native vegetation and wildlife in hundreds of thousands of acres.
 The League pointed out that hydroperiod and invasion by exotic plant species, such as melaleuca, pose far more serious threats to the Everglades than farm runoff. The League urged the board and the federal government to place more emphasis on those problems. League members offered to perform work on the spreader canals at cost, thus saving thousands of tax dollars that could be applied to the melaleuca removal program.
 League officials noted that the SWIM plan seeks to eliminate about 150 tons of phosphorus from the water that leaves the agricultural area. The League plan proposed to extract an initial 100 tons through techniques that can be implemented immediately at no public expense, with another 25 tons minimum coming from public projects already in place. The final 25 tons would come in Phase II, through a combination of techniques that are now or will soon be under field testing. League members plan to start implementing Phase I reductions immediately.
 Phase I of the League phosphorus removal plan draws heavily on research and field tests already done by the farming industry. Reduction methods include:
 -- Adjusting farmers' practices in pumping water. The League plan would eliminate phosphorus almost immediately at the rate of 58 tons annually. These changes involve delays in pumping and intermittent rather than prolonged pumping schedules. Calm, steady water flows allow phosphorus-laded sediments to settle rather than be carried out of the area and reduces both discharge and irrigation needs.
 -- Focusing on local cleanup of water leaving industrial and urban sources. Towns and sugar mills, for example, provide opportunities for local water treatment of concentrated, small volumes, which is much more efficient than pumping water from thousands of acres to the huge centralized STAs. An estimated 20 tons of phosphorus can be removed through these local programs.
 -- Modernizing analysis of fertilizer dosage and other practices recommended by the University of Florida can remove at least 11 tons of phosphorus.
 -- Injecting municipal treatment plan effluent into deep wells. Municipalities in the area already are using a new deep-well injection method of sewage disposal that was paid for by the farmers' special taxing district. This treatment extracts approximately 11 tons per year.
 None of these elements of the Sugar Cane League's Phase I costs the taxpayers money. Neither does it take rich farmland out of production. Further, in a system of Everglades Restoration Credits, they allow farmers to move faster to remove nutrients than the state's own timetable anticipates.
 The two public projects involved in Phase I are the existing Everglades Nutrient Removal Project on the state land previously leased as the Knight Tract. It and the Holey Land Project can together easily remove 25 tons of phosphorus if run at exactly the same rate as they are now.
 Phase II, which could account for the final 25 tons, would involve a combination of several methods now under study and will be field tested this year.
 -- Use limerock underlying the agricultural area to filter water. Limerock quickly binds phosphorus in a chemical bond.
 -- Divert some water from the agricultural area to the coastal cities' water systems. This plan is proposed by Water Management District Board Member Jim Nall of Fort Lauderdale.
 -- Use algae turf scrubbers, which so far seem to be 35 times as efficient as artificial marshes. This technique now is under study by Flo-Sun Inc. in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution.
 -- Interconnect farms to move drainage water internally rather than pumping off-site.
 -- Use aquifer storage and recovery wells to store water underground during the rainy season and bring it back up for use during the dry season.
 -0- 4/7/92
 /CONTACT: Otis Wragg of Wragg & Casas Public Relations, 305-372-1234, for the Florida Sugar Cane League/ CO: The Florida Sugar Cane League ST: Florida IN: SU:


AW-JB -- FL009 -- 5898 04/07/92 14:39 EDT
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Date:Apr 7, 1992
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