MIAMI — A federal judge expressed support Friday for a new $1.5 billion Environmental Protection Agency plan to reduce pollution-laden farm runoff that is choking the Everglades. He urged state officials to cooperate rather than mount unnecessary delays.
U.S. District Judge Alan Gold, who in April threatened the EPA with contempt of court over the chronic water problems, told agency officials he will use his authority to help implement the new plan quickly. The proposal includes construction of thousands of acres of water treatment areas and new, tougher permits for huge sugar farms and others that discharge water into the Everglades.
Coinciding with the hearing, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a proposal to raise another 5.5 miles of the cross-Everglades Tamiami Trail highway to improve water flows into Everglades National Park. Work is ongoing on a 1-mile bridge span.
The EPA wants to build 42,000 additional acres of treatment marshes to filter pollutants. That could include some of the land being purchased from U.S. Sugar Corp. under a plan pushed by outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist.