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Cost shift on Glades plan fails

A plan to shift more of the cost of cleaning up the Everglades onto sugar cane growers and other farmers failed Monday in a Senate committee.

But an amendment to a restoration plan does hold the industry to a high water quality standard sooner than growers wanted.

The four-hour debate before the Senate Natural Resources and Conservation Committee centered on who should pay for the cleanup, how much each group should pay and how quickly the cleanup would progress.

Sen. Curt Kiser, R-Palm Harbor, argued for a position favored by environmental groups in the audience. He proposed those who pollute the area to take care of their problems on their own property, using whatever technology they want.

Kiser also proposed a straight per-acre charge against farmers to pay for any stormwater treatment devices or areas needed to lower the already high pollution levels in the Everglades and Florida Bay.

"We're going to be looking to the people who do the polluting," Kiser said.

But he lost a vote to substitute his total plan for one pushed by Sen. Rick Dantzler, D-Winter Park, and Gov. Lawton Chiles.

The Democrat plan shares the cost of the $700-million restoration among farmers, the government and all taxpayers of the South Florida Water Management District. It also proposes the use of some public land for construction of stormwater treatment areas and taking some Preservation 2000 money to help pay the state's share.

Environmentalists criticized the plan as moving too slowly on the cleanup and cutting too many breaks for sugar cane and vegetable growers, who they blame for the area's pollution. Even legendary Everglades activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas added her voice to the critics, in a letter last week to Chiles.

Kiser did win a narrow 7-6 vote in the committee on a measure that says water quality must meet a high standard by 1997, unless agencies establish other rules and standards by then.

The Chiles and Dantzler plan gave growers another five years to meet a substantial water quality standard.