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Chiles gives Glades cleanup a push

If lawmakers don't pass legislation this session to restore the Everglades, the state will try to start a cleanup plan by seeking new regulatory powers, the governor said Monday.

"It's time that we stopped talking and we got to work on restoration," Gov. Lawton Chiles said.

The state, U.S. government and major agricultural interests reached agreement last year on a plan to clean up the Everglades but it remains in litigation.

Chiles said he has ordered the Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District to begin writing new administrative rules that would have the same effect as legislation.

If lawmakers fail to act, the agencies will enforce the rules, Chiles said.

"We have to have a legislative solution, but if we don't have one we're not going to sit by and wait for the next time the Legislature meets," he said. "We're going to move forward as far and as fast as we can in another way."

Either way, new legislation or administrative rules probably would face legal challenges.

The cleanup plan would cost almost $700-million over 10 years, with sugar companies and other agricultural interests paying about half while the public would pay the balance.

If lawmakers act, it could eliminate the need for lengthy hearing next month on the issue.