NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Building Swamps In Florida

November 25, 1998

Vice President Al Gore has put his weight behind a plan to take productive private property in south Florida, flood it and return it to swampland. The plan was originally developed by the U.S. Forest Service and the South Florida Water Management District. Scientists and economists -- not to mention landowners whose property rights would be trampled -- have serious misgivings about such a project.

  • Although the government already owns 54 percent of the land in south Florida below Lake Okeechobee, supporters of the project want to requisition another 170,000 acres of productive farmland and pasture.
  • In the early part of this century, the federal government stepped in and drained this part of the Everglades, constructing a series of dams and levies to create the farmland -- a process which project advocates now propose to reverse.
  • Engineers are concerned about the plan's reliance on technologies never used on so vast a scale and on such porous land as that in south Florida.
  • Sugar growers are already preparing to increase prices, since much of their land would be taken out of production and supplies will decrease if the plan goes through.

Then there is another catch. Announcing plans now to take private property decades prior to the actual condemnation immediately destroys the value of the land and ensures that the government will get the property for practically nothing, since no one would want to buy land slated for a government takeover. Moreover, no money has been budgeted for the land being taken.

Legal experts say the scheme violates the Fifth Amendment's Just Compensation clause, which forbids the government from taking land without paying for it.

Source: Nancie Marzulla (Defenders of Property Rights), "Property Rights Risk in Everglades Plan," Washington Times, November 25, 1998.


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